When it comes to famous personalities, we often wonder who the person behind the larger-than-life personality really is. Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer who ruled the ring during his illustrious boxing career, comes across as a very different person, seen from the point of view of his daughter.
At Home With Muhammad Ali brings alive scenes from the lives of Muhammad Ali and his family. The memoir is written like a story, slowly unveiling the man behind the boxing champion that the world knew. Ali had nine children and was married four times. The writer of this book, Hana Ali, is the younger daughter from his marriage to Veronica Porché.
It all started with a series of tapes that Ali had recorded since 1970s. “If anyone is wondering why I, Muhammad Ali, am making these tapes, it’s because history is so beautiful. And, at the time we’re living, we don’t always realise it,” he mentions in one of these tapes. These provide the raw material for the book.
Accessing these tapes, old published articles and a rich storehouse of memories, Hana recalls her memories of her father, from her unique point of view. How was life with a legend? How did it feel when celebrities flitted in and out of the house like casual friends? How did it feel to ‘share’ her father with the world? Fremont Place, where Hana lived with her mother and sister (Laila Ali, who is also a boxer), somehow pervades the narrative and makes a strong appearance in the book.
“We all think we know our parents. Some of us may, but in most cases only half of what we think we know is true” writes Hana. One can feel the sense of loss and pain that pervaded her life as she grew up.
“You are not my father, You’re Muhammad Ali,” she says to him once. This statement reflects the mindscape of a child who had to “share” her father since he was a celebrity who was larger than life. To add to that, he had nine children from different relationships, and he was dedicated to all his children.
Despite the pain, there were moments of joy. When he was with Hana, he more than made up for all the inevitable absences. The little memories of daily life are etched in her mind. “Even when he was busy, he made time for us. My memories are rich because of it”, writes Hana. The book describes many of these seemingly little instances that enriched her life. We see Ali as a family man placed in the context of his immediate surroundings.
Ali’s separation with Hana’s mother Veronica is one of the themes that underlies this book. Throughout the narrative there is a sense of questioning why their relationship broke up. From blaming her mother for the inevitable, Hana attempts to see both sides of the story and finally accepts the situation. She also accepts her father’s role in this break-up. She presents his side of the story, without passing judgements. She is also open about the disappointments that she harboured.
There is a sense of catharsis in the memoir, as if Hana has finally exorcised the past and looked at the events with a new eye. Hence the subtitle ‘a memoir of love, loss and forgiveness’ makes perfect sense.
At Home With Muhammad Ali reveals a lot about him as a person behind the public persona. With all his faults and strengths, Hana attempts to present an honest picture of the man. However, it is equally an attempt to come to terms and make sense of her own childhood and the impact it had on her own life.
I wish there were more details about Ali’s other marriages and children, and their perspectives as well. This would provide the reader with a more rounded image of the man. Honest and poignant as it is, it is still Hana’s perspective.
Ultimately, this is a book about the relationship between a parent and a child, and how childhood memories form an indelible impression on young minds.
“Being a parent and being married is hard. My father may not have done everything perfectly, but he learnt from some of his parents’ mistakes, and my mother learnt from hers, just as Laila and I will learn from their missteps and do better with our children. I guess that’s what we all hope will happen until someone, someday, many years from now, finally has a perfect childhood” writes Hana, providing a fitting message to the readers.
Title: At Home with Muhammad Ali
Author: Hana Ali
Publisher: Bantam Press, Penguin
Genre: Biography/ Memoir
One of the best memories of life belong to school days. The school campus, classrooms, friends, teachers, fun and studies form an unforgettable part of our childhood and help shape us into adulthood. Those carefree days never fail to bring a smile on one’s face as they remind us of a simpler and happier time.
The Hill School Girls is a popular boarding-school series for young adults. The book follows four school girls navigating the ups and downs of school life while dealing with families, personal problems and friendship. Trouble, the fourth in the series and follows the lives of Elizabeth, Mahrukh, Maitreyi and Ayesha.
Mahrukh is the central character of Trouble and outlines the issues faced by her family, a middle class, cash strapped household. Mahrukh has to think of creative ways to save their shop from being taken over. The predicament is common, but Mahrukh’s quick thinking and resourcefulness is quite commendable. Her sensitivity and adjusting nature is what makes her a likeable and well-rounded character. The school also appoints a former Olympics player as a basketball coach who Mahrukh wants to impress. As the story unfolds, we are given a glimpse into the personality and mindset of each of the characters. Her friendship with Elizabeth, Maitreyi and Ayesha is solid and it’s nice to see the strong female bond between the four girls.
The language used in the book is simple and easy to follow for readers of all ages. Set in contemporary India, the themes and issues highlighted in this book are relatable and will take you down memory lane. Certain scenes and dialogues bring back the innocence of school days and fill your heart with warmth and nostalgia. Mahrukh’s determination to help out her family and her loving bond with them is heartwarming.
The Hill School Girls is a good read for young adults and adults alike as it tells the story of simple girls with ordinary problems, but the extraordinary resilience and strength which they display while solving them is noteworthy.
THE HILL SCHOOL GIRLS- WHOLE SERIES
Author: A Coven
Age Group: 10 years+
“At twenty-seven years old, I had been introduced to a man with no name. I had handled his body, cut it apart, and put it back together again. From that point on, I thought, every careless mistake I might make in the hospital would be a slap in his face, every success a tribute to him, my first patient. He had given himself freely – wholeheartedly-and now I had to give him back and leave him to restful peace,”
-Sandeep Jauhar, Heart: A History
The heart is one organ in our body that widely links to metaphor and abstractions. When the author of a book is a heart failure specialist writing on the heart, one does not really expect storytelling to enter in. But, that is maybe where the skill of Sandeep Jauhar lies. He ‘dissects’ the heart in this book, titled “Heart: A History”, and merges various disciplines to give us a comprehensive account of the most important organ in the human body.
You’ll find different kinds of narratives here as the book moves on- the author’s personal history and accounts, references to the heart in literature, interesting facts about the heart (such as the origin of the heart shape as we know it), medical and scientific information about the heart, the history of the research in the field, art that depicts the heart, the idioms linked to the heart, case studies from annals of research in cardiology as well as stories and facts drawn out from his personal experience. All these bits of information jostle together and find a place in the book, sitting comfortably next to each other.
What I found most interesting is the exploration of the link between the physical and metaphorical heart. Jauhar quotes from research studies and personal experience to highlight the fact that the biological heart is deeply linked to emotions. “We have moved away from the emotional heart to a narrow focus on the biomechanical pump,” he writes. Perhaps this call to give importance to how emotions impact the heart resonates strongly throughout the book.
As he uncovers the mysteries of the heart he also takes us through his personal journey- the first time he dissected a frog, studied a cadaver and came face to face with tragedy as he helped victims post the 9/11 attacks. Poignant stories from his family continue to pervade the pages of the book, giving us some deep reflections to apply to our own lives and to our mortality as well.
He quotes several pathbreaking medical research studies. It is impossible for the reader not to empathize with the brave cardiologists over time who have researched and experimented to better current techniques. Many of them have, often for moral and practical reasons, experimented on themselves! Often, this has come at great cost. How can one balance between innovation and safety when it comes to human lives? Cardiologists had to take tough calls and the book illustrates these stories though the ages.
As one reads the book one feels like a partner accompanying the author on this surprising and mysterious journey of the heart! There are moments when the research bits get a bit detailed, but at no point is the narrative difficult for the non-expert reader.
We also get a peek into two worlds. Firstly, the field of cardiology with its pathbreaking technological marvels that have indeed made a huge contribution to humanity. But more interestingly, we also enter his own personal world. The feelings of guilt and helplessness at not being able to help a patient, the fear of the huge responsibility that his job carries and the happiness and gratefulness at being able to make a difference is also brought out very poignantly.
Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar will take the reader through a very unique journey in exploring the human heart.
Title: Heart: A History
Author: Sandeep Jauhar
Publisher: Penguin books
On the very first page of Ruskin Bond’s ‘A Book of Simple Living’, is a very beautiful and serene illustration of a trail of ants. Even before I can immerse myself in the soothing words of this book, my mind goes back a decade in time. My now-tween then-toddler and I were in a park, staring at a long line of ants that he spotted. We had all the time to ‘stand and stare’ at the busy ants. I still remember feeling so calm and at ease, and experiencing a sense of solidarity with nature, even as the world around us went buzzing by. This is exactly the kind of feeling that reading ‘A Book of Simple Living” evokes.
Ruskin Bond has written a lot about nature. This book has crystallised nuggets which all stem from his relationship with the natural world. “Live close to nature and your spirit will not be easily broken, for you will learn something of patience and resilience. You will not grow restless and you will never feel lonely,” he rightly says.
But, is it really only nature that he talks about? As you read the short passages in the book, varied themes come out- the futility of war, the delicacy of love, sights and sounds that tickle the senses, the many pleasures of gardening, his take on collections and ‘hoarding’ stuff, work, vocation and creativity. Occasionally, a poem creeps in and these simple verses are equally enchanting. In short, these are his philosophical musings that will make our busy and wired lives happier.
This book will make you savour simple pleasures of life and the joy of little things. It is a way to detox mentally. Read it from the first to last page or just open up a random page and devour it. The writing is short, brief and simple, thus being accessible to the most busy or reluctant of readers.
If you have read other books by Ruskin Bond you will find that this book is a microcosm of his world. If you have never read a book by Ruskin Bond, this is probably the best one to begin with. And, if reading this book kindles any desire to express a few thoughts of your own, be sure to check out our post on a journal written by Bond- https://www.bookedforlife.in/reviews/ruskin-bonds-words-hills-collectors-delight/. This journal merges spectacular artwork and beautiful snippets from Bonds works, to inspire you to pen down your own thoughts.
Ruskin Bond’s ‘A Book of Simple Living’ is a book you may want to add to your collection. What is says remains timeless!
Title: A Book of Simple Living
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
If Nur Jahan were alive today, she would be what one would call, ‘a superwoman ‘. The Queen of Queens or Maharani, the 17th wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was a feisty and dynamic woman. In Empress- The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, author and feminist historian Ruby Lal brings to the limelight the many accomplishments of the Mughal queen.
As a historian, Lal seeks out an objective and accurate account of Nur’s life. She analyses histories of what is known about the queen- both oral accounts and recorded ones, and then unravels what is hidden behind the more popular constructs of her beauty.
Yes, she was beautiful. But, she was also an accomplished politician, a poet, a culturally inclined person, an excellent hunter and master strategist. She won the respect and admiration of Jahangir. He made her his ‘co-sovereign’, something that was unprecedented in the empire. She has coins that bore her seal and royal orders issued in her name. However, the conservative patriarchal society of the times could not acknowledge “that she could be both womanly and a sovereign”.
Through intense research, often with unusual sources, Lal explains the reasons behind the rise of Nur Jahan due to a plethora of factors, rather than only see her as a beautiful woman who lured her husband with feminine charms. We get a nuanced story of a queen who was much ahead of her times; A queen who was a feminist, though no such concept existed back then!
The narrative style is quite interesting since Lal tells the story of Nur Jahan almost like a fiction tale. She recreates and brings to life the times in which the queen was born and her life in the royal household complete with the sights, smells, culture and mannerisms of the eon, including insightful descriptions of the harem and the Mughal court. This places her story in context.
In these realistic recreations of the childhood, youth and the life of Nur Jahan, she weaves in the story of the times. One gets a sense of how Nur came to be the person she was.
The Queen steals the show
As a feminist historian, the book highlights the gender politics of the age. What is interesting to search in the narrative, and what Lal also attempts to find out is how did Nur Jahan achieve what she did in the age and environment she lived in? What about her made Jahangir see her with a different eye? How did she navigate the complex world of patriarchy and harem politics to a more visible kind of power?
Nur Jahan was cognizant of the fact that history often overlooked the achievements of women. She ensures in her way, that such a fate should not befall her. While she handled the politics of power in a commendable way, her downfall was also inevitable. History is eventually a point of view. When Shah Jahan, Nur’s step son, ascended the throne, many victories and accomplishments of Nur were effaced from public records and memory. Even though they had once shared cordial relations, their relationship had soured.
“In the absence of a man in whose name she could fight, and with no nobles or family members supporting or celebrating her imperial service, Nur could take no further action to retain her position as co-sovereign. Her rise to power had been relatively swift. Her fall was even swifter,” writes Lal.
Empress is a bold attempt to take a relook at history from a different point of view. Time and patriarchy may not have done due justice to Nur’s legacy, but, as the author writes, “Some people will themselves into history”. Nur Jahan was definitely one of them!
Author: Ruby Lal
We’ve all heard the adage that beauty is skin deep. But then, why do many of us still look out for solutions only in external cosmetic products and treatments? If you want better skin and hair, the first place you should go to is your kitchen! Glow by Vasudha Rai dives into indigenous wisdom and emerges with some easy-to-follow and tried-and-tested ‘manna’ for great skin, hair and health!
Excerpts from our conversation with Rai…
You have been involved in writing about the beauty industry for a long time. What are your observations about the change in attitudes towards natural authentic beauty treatments and products over the course of all these years?
I think the treatments are broadly the same, but what has really changed is the attitude towards beauty. There is a lot more acceptance now of the way we look. Beauty is also more diverse, which means that a lot more of us are considered beautiful, instead of just that typical ‘gori-chitti’ aesthetic. In terms of products, there is a slew of natural beauty brands that have entered the market. It’s like a green revolution of sorts. However, in the next few years the brands will be filtered down. Only the ones that are scientifically formulated and are extremely effective will remain.
You have divided the book into the four pillars of beauty—vitality, clarity, radiance and peace, and then put different natural foods under each of these heads. This is indeed a new and original way to look at beauty. What inspired this approach?
I was a bit tired of the upside-down approach that we had for beauty. Skincare, makeup and facials are all great. However, true beauty begins from within – with good health and a great mindset. Writing on beauty for more than 15 years I have seen that outer care is a temporary fix. We have to be cognizant not just of the food we eat physically but the thoughts that we feed into our minds. Vitality stands for energy and strength: When we eat and live to be healthy, great skin and hair are just a side effect. Clarity is a real need these days – especially because adult acne is a reality, because of stress, poor diets, pollution etc. Radiance is the main tenet of beauty and I have chosen brightly coloured fruit, leaves, flowers and seeds for this section. But, for me the ultimate pillar of beauty is peace. Without peace, looking good is just superficial. When we are calm and peaceful there is an inner radiance that is magnetizing and there is no cream or facial that can replicate that sort of glow.
Can you talk about the research process that you undertook for this book? I understand that there were trials you undertook as well!
I wrote the book in four drafts (before I submitted it to Penguin). First, I wrote what I knew from experience. Then I looked at scientific studies to find new data and support my claims. The third layer was the precious knowledge that my experts generously shared with me. And finally came the recipes and recipe testing. My neighbours are now used to seeing me in weird face masks just walking around! Some of them know that I’ve written a book, while others think I’m a bit crazy!
One of the points that the book brings out is that many traditional fruits and vegetables which many of us may have enjoyed in our childhood are just disappearing from the scene. This surely points to something simmering that we are not aware of. How can one bring back and preserve, or rather reclaim what is authentically ours?
One way to do that would be to create a demand for our local fruits and vegetables. We must reduce the consumption of imported berries and other stuff because firstly they are unnecessarily expensive, and secondly, they spoil easily because they have been stored for too long. Lastly, God knows what they have been injected with to stay fresh for so long! Also, instead of shopping at the supermarket, go to your mandi, shop with the local subziwallah, support local businesses. It all begins with one person – just ask for local over imported and slowly, the demand will increase. Educate your friends and family to do the same.
Just as a quick takeaway for our readers… Which natural product would you use for the following?
Many people do want to go back to the ‘roots’ and our rich heritage of remedies for health and beauty. However, within the spectrum of ‘natural’ beauty products we are flooded with options in the market. What advice would you give consumers for distinguishing between what is authentic and what is not?
I would always say do a lot of research and see if the ingredients have been extracted using the best methods, and then formulated by a scientist. People don’t understand that natural ingredients can be very volatile and need to be balanced by someone with a degree in cosmetology. I believe in balance – I love eating clean, applying home-made hair oils and masks, but equally I love a good face serum or a dermatologist-office treatment. We can preserve our heritage and yet take advantage of the products that are modern and effective. We don’t have to choose between one or another.
It’s time to begin the journey to good skin and hair. Are you ready to bring on the inner glow?
Author: Vasudha Rai
There was a time when conventional adventure and mystery books for children were all in rage. Inspired by The Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew Series the Mystery Crackers Series by Jinal Doshi brings forth a group of clever problem-solvers who happen to be children.
So far, she has written two novels in the series: The Mystery Crackers: A Chest’s Tale and The Mystery Crackers: Tattooed Music and is currently working on The Mystery Crackers: The Ritzy Maartle.
The Mystery Crackers: A Chest’s Tale follows twins Prash and Nish as they try to find their Dad whose gone missing. The answer may just lie in an antique chest, which incidentally is also missing! In the second book, The Mystery Crackers: Tattooed Music, an innocent look at the dazzling replica of Daulihaam (A Blue Diamond Gold Choker) and a precious bloodstained pure silk handkerchief lure fraternal twins – Prash and Nish in to a fascinating mystery of old ships, tattooed music and a thirst to excavate the real Daulihaam’s mesmerizing history. Both brothers plunge deeply in to it to place the identity of a deadly pirate. Unaware about the dangers that lie ahead, the teen detectives get into a stunning adventure connected with a royal couple and a precious stone.
While the first novel is available as a paperback and on Kindle, the second novel is a Kindle Version. “I wished to touch the hearts of global readers. Thus, I chose the Amazon Kindle option,’ says Jinal. “I think e-readers have surely changed the way today’s generation reads. However, there are still readers who choose to hold a physical book in their hands and take in the special fragrance of the pages. So, physical books are here to stay for a long time,” she adds.
A lot has been written and discussed about manifesting your destiny. The concept of visualising your life the way you want it to be and thereby manifesting your destiny has gained trajectory in the recent years. Yes, the publication of the bestselling book, The Secret may have had a role to play. But, the truth is that a lot more people have taken to living more consciously than they did before and believing that they have a more active role to play in their lives.
Create your dream life now: A workbook and guide for manifesting your destiny written by Darren Marc and illustrated by Joan Coleman is a workbook that guides people in a step-by-step manner to manifest their destiny.
Section 1, Let’s Start Creating gently leads the reader into birthing their dream by talking about intentions and goals, and then moving on to creating vision boards, Since this is a workbook there is enough space to write down your goals. There is space to note down goals related to different aspects of life: Personal, health, family and romance, fun, career, finance and spirituality.
Section 2 concerns Daily Spiritual Practice. Goals have been set, but one needs to achieve them! This is where daily habits come in. This section illuminates some active meditations, affirmations and creative visualisations, that aid the process of fulfillment of the goals. The section on affirmations is also quite comprehensive, with a few good affirmations to incorporate in your daily practice.
The book also emphasizes on the role of meditation in manifesting your desires. It talks about white light meditation, mantra meditation, japa meditation and mindfulness medication with a brief introduction to these. On the same lines it talks about yoga. At first, I could not comprehend why meditation (or even yoga) should be an integral part of a workbook that talks about manifesting your destiny. However, the premise of the authors, as they explain here, is that meditation cultivates mindfulness that ultimately filters into daily life and enables the person to consciously choose thoughts and actions that support specific goals in life.
Once the reader understands these concepts, the reader is led to write down his or her morning and evening rituals, which obviously are based on the concepts explained so far. This is the action sheet that ensures that the reader puts into practice what he or she has learnt from the exercise. To supplement these rituals, there are also some well-defined health tips given, which will work along with the spiritual habits and rituals for more holistic development.
Section 3 contains the 12 Keys of Conscious Creation. These are philosophical concepts that have been defined ‘operationally’ in this book. Then, there is space to note down how exactly the reader will imbibe these concepts and make them a part of his or her life. For example, one of the key concepts of conscious creation is being in the present. The book defines what that means. Then, it nudges the reader to write down how he or she will be in the present at all times. This activity kind of orients the reader towards the ‘keys’ being expressed, and encourages the reader to imbibe these in his or her consciousness.
Section 4, A Little More Inspiration adds on some more practical tips, and then eases the reader to now start independently applying the concepts learnt in the book.
I like to think of this workbook as a medium of gentle handholding in the path of setting and achieving goals. It is also visually quite delightful. If you’re buying the e-book, you’ll need to print it out since the book requires participation from the reader in terms of writing and noting down some points as the reader reads along. It is a record book as well, which you can keep going to from time to time in the journey of manifesting your destiny.
Author: Darren Marc
Illustrator: Joan Coleman
Publisher: Health communications, Inc.
The Prophecy of Rasphora is a story of three girls- Vandana, Afreen and Tara. The protagonists of this magical adventure story are not the typical affluent or upper middle class characters that one often encounters in books of this genre. The girls run a tea stall on the hills and they live a hand-to-mouth existence. They are alone in the world, with no one but each other. However, poverty in childhood does not really have to rob it of its magic right? The girls often escape into a self-created magical world of dreams. Little do they know that their lives are also in for a magical transformation.
It all starts with the sight of a mysterious man who does not look quite as if he belongs to ‘normal’ society. One of the girls spots him, and makes it her mission to find him out. What starts off as a curious search for this man, leads the girls to one of the most beautiful places on earth-Rasphora. This place is where the magical adventure story is set. But once they enter this land they have a tough call to take. According to an ancient prophecy, they could stay and save the land that may be doomed or leave and let it wither.
The story follows the decision that the girls make and the repercussions thereof. The land of Rasphora is mesmerizing, and is sure to tickle the imaginations of the young readers. The story has been written in a simple and lucid manner. There are enough surprises for the child to keep turning the pages or find out what happens next. The book is apt for children around and above ten years of age.
BOOKS BY Varsha Seshan
Title: The Prophecy of Rasphora
Author: Varsha Seshan
Illustrated by Lavanya Karthik
Genre: Fiction, Children
Age group: 10 onwards
A strong woman looks at a challenge in the eye…and gives it a wink! This pretty much sums up Daughters of Legacy by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal. Published by Penguin books, it chronicles the lives of twelve fascinating women from Indian business families on managing legacy businesses.
If a woman faces the glass ceiling in a Corporate environment- in a traditional Indian legacy set up, she might as well have an ice glacier to get around! Most Indian legacy businesses are passed on to sons. With this deep-rooted patriarchal mind set, it is refreshing to read a story which talks about daughters of the house being given equal opportunities as sons.
It talks about the pressure that comes up with having a famous surname and how being the boss’s daughter or an ‘heiress’ is not always an enviable position to be in. There are various common challenges that these women faced – including ‘not been taken seriously’ or having to hear things like ‘Oh – she is here only for time pass, till she gets married’
The book is divided in to 12 chapters with each chapter telling the story of one unique woman and her journey in to the world of entrepreneurship. The women covered are Ashni Biyani, Meher Pudumjee, Manasi Kirloskar amongst others. The authors have covered women from different business sectors such as retail, real estate, logistics, textiles as well as from different stages of business legacies. While some are second generation entrepreneurs, someone like Lavanya Nalli of Nalli group is a 5th generation entrepreneur covered in the book.
One of the best things about this book is that the narrative is focused on bringing out the leadership skills, decision making abilities and pitfalls faced by these remarkable women from a business perspective- the things shared by them include their struggles to be accepted by the board, facing failure and bouncing back.
At no point does the book turn into a cliché on work life balance, but has some extremely straight forward advice on hard work, team building, taking calculated risks and not becoming a victim of your own success. There are several interesting anecdotes on the lessons that these women learnt by observing how their parents ran their business- especially on trusteeship and being responsible for the lives of people who work for you. At the end of each chapter is letter from the parents of the entrepreneur which is heart-warming to read.
Title: Daughters of Legacy
Author: Rinku Paul & Puja Singhal
Publisher: Penguin Books