It was not long ago when it seemed that the appreciation of poetry was dying. But, the millennial generation is a surprising one. Today, youngsters have de-mystified poetry and many people enjoy the form. It flashes everywhere on social media and the accessibility of the genre has widened considerably. It is at this time that Safran, Aishwarya Nir’s debut collection of poetry, brings in a fresh perspective on simple everyday things.
The name ‘Safran’ reminds one of Saffron with its pure fragrance. “Safran is an anglicised pronunciation of the word Saffron. I felt the experiences mentioned in the book are as fragile, rare and overpowering like the threads of saffron. I also liked how this word encapsulated the Urdu word ‘Safar’ implying journey,” explains Nir.
The book is divided into three sections- Live, Love and Imagine. The poems in each of these sections broadly adhere to these themes.
The poetry has been penned by a millennial herself and hence it reflects the unique thought process and desires of this generation. “The way I see it Safran resonates with the young because it stands for limitlessness, it stands for no structures and it stands for brief yet beautiful,” explains Nir.
Indeed, some of the themes that come forth mirror a millennial thought process:
An extract from ‘To A Happy Start’ talks about freedom to discover oneself on the journey of life…
I want to travel
With the path, and not to the destination,
Knowing a part of me
I’ve not known before.
Another extract from ‘Fear Holds Me Together And Becomes My Anchor’ shows how fear makes us conform…
I have neatly pinned
my boundaries and seams,
like an outline of my own,
I dare not go.
‘Labels’ is a take on relationships…
No! I don’t want you
to give a name to it.
The world can define
what is between us.
talk. Sleep in peace.
While we will lay awake
In each other’s dreams;
what it truly is.
I particularly enjoyed some short poems which were quite profound. While the initial draft of the book had really long verses, Nir took months to edit and craft them into small ones.
For instance, the poem ‘Let It Go. Even If It Comes Back, It Was Never Yours. We Are All On Our Own’ is compact and to the point.
I stood on the seashore
and observed the waves.
Life keeps throwing things
and taking them away.
Illustrations by Aanchal Kejriwal accompany the poems and beautifully highlight the key themes of the poems. Nir and Kejriwal conceptualised the illustrations together and the latter brought them to life.
Safran is a refreshing collection of poems that exudes many new thoughts and infuses fresh vibrancy in poems for millennials.
Author: Aishwarya Nir
Publisher: Virgin Leaf books, Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd.
“Just read the story, turn the pages, believing that it must be happening somewhere” writes VP Kale in his collection of short stories, Karmachari. That ‘somewhere’ could actually be anywhere considering the vast and common appeal that his works have.
Vasant Purushottam Kale (1932-2001) was a very prolific writer who wrote in Marathi. He was popularly known as “VaPu”. He also started the trend of reading his stories to live audiences. His stories are known for their insightful characterization. Karmachari, a collection of his short stories translated into English by Vikrant Pande, now brings this vibrant universe to a new generation of readers.
The characters you encounter in the book are ordinary people. But, it takes the pen of a genius to draw us into their deepest emotions, secrets and their surprising strengths.
These short stories will introduce you to a host of characters who will surprise you. A portly man on a train with an overbearing wife turns out surprisingly intelligent and mature. A rich upper class fellow travels by local train to “help” people in his unique style. A middle class contractor’s feelings of fear and guilt on taking his first bribe. A man who can’t let go of grudges till death. A middle aged man feeling attracted to a past lover. A married couple trying to understand each other. An anxious father who loses a beloved son, and many more memorable characters.
The reader will notice that the names of chapters are names of characters in the story. This underscores the importance of the character as central to the story rather than any plot or storyline. Furthermore, each story is in the first person. The narrator is speaking directly to the reader. He also builds up the story through conversation. So yes, you can forget about long drawn descriptions! The stories move fast towards their conclusion, using conversation as rungs.
Karmachari is set in the suburban Mumbai of the 1970s, predominantly in a middle class locale. However, this does not mean that these are restricted to a particular group alone.
V.P.Kale’s insight into human psychology is truly profound. Hence, despite the seeming boundary of the ‘setting’ his stories truly rise up to apply to a general human condition.
One of his characters in the short stories says:
I enjoy the diversity of human beings. Everyone has their own traits, whims and characteristics. And getting to know someone new is exciting because it opens new avenues for such discoveries.
In ‘Satwalekar’ a new office clerk changes things around much to the irritation of a senior. While gossiping about the reaction of this senior with his confidant in office he says:
“He has all the traits of anger, greed, jealousy, etc. That’s why I say he is a complete human being. I know how to guard myself against such people”
A little later the conversation continues…
“I still believe Tambe isn’t at fault. It’s easy to win over such people. I can win him over any day by ordering a special tea for him”
“Don’t tell me that’s all it takes to win people over”
“Of course! Their expectations are as small as their jealousies”
All these instances, and many more in the book, go on to show that the stories are not really confined to a particular group, but have a human universal appeal.
These short stories were originally written in Marathi. In the English translation, the language is simple and lucid, much like it was in the original works.
Humour that is intrinsic to language is something that is challenging and often lost in translation. But, Vikrant Pande has successfully translated a lot of the wry humour from the original text in Marathi to the English.
For instance, the story ‘Khambette’ mentions:
The trains were running late. There was nothing surprising about that, though. The surprise lay elsewhere: we never knew on what day it would happen.
The translation is so seamless that unless someone points it out, the reader would not know that this is a translation!
There is a philosopher in every man- no matter how ‘common’ he is. Each of the characters who are a part of the stories in Karmachari, add to it by taking on their own philosophical angle to the situation.
In the last story, titled Vandana Samant VP Kale appears in the story as a writer character himself. It is here that he finally cements his belief as the writer being an observer of society and people, and a chronicler of sorts.
Another poignant aspect of the stories, despite their philosophical bent, is that Kale refuses to moralise. In that sense he is sympathetic to the inner worlds of all his characters irrespective of whether they are perceived as positive or negative by general society mores.
VP Kale’s Karmachari is a collection of stories that rises above boundaries and lines and transcends to universal appeal.
Author: Vasant Purushottam Kale
Translated by: Vikrant Pande
Publisher: Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar is a spellbinding debut that draws the reader into an enchanting world of myth and legend.
Jonah Hancock, a merchant who is eagerly awaiting his ship to return would never have thought that a mermaid would change his life. The captain of his ship has sold the ship for a mermaid. This rarity spirals him to fame and fortune. Everyone is eager to see the surreal creature. It opens the doors of high society, and other worlds unknown, to him. His encounter with accomplished courtesan Angelica Neal changes the course of his life forever. The mermaid plays a central role in the story. But, as we all know, mermaids are rumored to bring ill-will and bad-luck. Will his story have a happy ending?
The author tells the story in alternating points-of-view between two worlds: one of the merchant Mr. Hancock and the other of the courtesan Angelica Neal. If one chapter talks about the former, the other builds the world of the latter. Finally, the two protagonists meet.
From then on the story paces gently towards the end, but not without keeping the reader completely engrossed and wondering as to what would the next turn of events be. After all, mermaids are said to possess destructive powers. Does the myth of the mermaid hold true? Gowar holds the narrative strands of the story well, leading the reader through the intriguing tale.
‘‘Tis the way to tell a story
This is one of those novels where the language adds to the pleasure of reading the story as much as the plot and tension that takes the tale forward.The language is beautiful, sensual and lyrical. The author has a skill in conjuring up worlds! For example, the luscious descriptions of the courtesans house evoke a kind of sensuality. The barrenness of Mr. Hancock’s life is echoed in the descriptions of his home and daily routines. The scenes that describe the melancholy associated with the mermaid, actually weigh the reader down.
Between the lines
One of the very subtle underlying themes is the class and gender inequality that is evident in the Georgian society and almost accepted as normal. These clear distinctions of what men and women are ‘allowed’ were commonplace for the times. For a modern reader, the blatant pigeonholing of gender roles seems surprising.
For example, Mr. Hancock, the merchant, is going to be visiting the whorehouse where his mermaid will be on display. His niece who takes care of his house (since he is a widower) demands to know where he is going. He replies:
‘You are prying’ he says. “Tis not seemly. And what use would the knowledge be to you? My place is out there- he waves his arms across to the window, the dockyard beyond- ‘and yours is in here. I go out, you stay in. I do my duty, you so yours; then tis all harmonious. Do you understand?’.
The delicate situation of women, and how they navigate their roles despite challenging circumstances is also something that comes out in the novel. On one hand, Angelica Neal is the most beautiful courtesan. On the other, her utter financial dependency on her ‘keepers’ seems appalling.
One of the most powerful lines that glaringly shows this situation comes when Angelica is talking to her friend, Bel, who is giving up prostitution and is getting married. Angelica wonders how Bel agreed to marriage.
“I have tried all other kinds of prostitution, why not this? ‘Tis simply the best contract I ever saw drawn up, and it’s terms are for life.’
The novel is set in Georgian England and the author has fleshed out the intricacies of the societal mores of the time quite realistically. With the mermaid in the picture, magical realism also imbues the tale.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a story that will keep you guessing till the end, narrated in beautiful lyrical language. Set in Georgian England, it is a realistic portrayal of the era.
Title: The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
Author: Imogen Hermes Gowar
Publisher: Penguin Random house, UK
We live in an age where voices are made to drown as soon as they are raised. It takes courage to stand up for what one believes in. It takes even greater courage to continue to stick to fighting for a cause in face of threatening consequences. Split-a life by Taslima Nasrin continues the chronicling of the eventful journey of the author, secular humanist, feminist and physician. Already a controversial figure in her country Bangladesh, she became known internationally after a fatwa was issued against her in 1994 for her writings.
Split continues the author’s story in another volume. It has been translated from the Bengali version by Maharghya Chakraborty, and is published by Penguin Random House.
Taslima Nasrin is forthright and unapologetically honest about her views on issues that matter. One may not always agree with her on the debates she outlines in her writing, but one can always be sure that what she writes is not clothed in diplomacy. It is brazenly outright.
The reader gets a sense of the varied experiences that have shaped Nasrin, through the instances that she narrates in the book. The book is not chronological in a strict sense, but covers roughly the period of her life from the beginning of her career as a medical doctor, her gradual foray into the literary realm and the publication of her book Lajja that acted as a catalyst to the ‘fatwa’ issued against her.
There is a wry sense of humour and satire that flows throughout the book. There is humour woven into the lines no matter how serious a matter they are talking about. A common advice given to writers is “Show, Don’t tell”. This is so evidently and seamlessly demonstrated in this book. There is a lyrical quality to the prose, which explains why the medical doctor turned into a writer.
There are many themes which run through the book. The power dynamics between men and women and the survival of women in a highly patriarchal society is one of them. She touches upon the effects of poverty and the pervasive vicious cycle it puts one into. This heart wrenching discovery was made in her work as a doctor where she associated with the poor.
Politics and Religion
Their politics was never about the welfare of the people. It was, and remained, solely about amassing power. Every political party was singularly dedicated to devising ways in which power could be concentrated in their hands by hook or by crook, and their primary objective remained consumption of the ensuing spoils.
A major portion of the book also talks about the political scenario in Bangladesh. She writes boldly about the political scenario in Bangladesh. One of the most poignant moments in the book is her recount of the aftermath of the Babri Masjid incident. She speaks at length about the horrors that this incident sparked off in the neighbouring Bangladesh.
As a medical doctor, her day job finally merges with her literary concerns as she deals with the aftermath of the Babri masjid incident in India. We are all familiar with the gruesome riots that ensued in India, Nasrin paints an equally heart wrenching picture of the impact of this incident in Bangladesh where communal hatred also raised its ugly head. She treats the victims of the riots on one hand as a doctor, and on the other, as a writer she is deeply concerned with the scenario. Her very humanistic point of view is touching. Split- a life gives a deep insight into this. The entire experience of witnessing communal discord in her country have way to her book Lajja. The book was banned and instigated stiff opposition against her.
“Do nations need a religion? It is the people who need it. The nation is not one individual”
I had always actively distanced myself from the various ailments in the house: Father was afflicted with masculinity, Mother suffered from religion and Dada was obsessed with his wife Mumu.
The book also reveals Taslima Nasrins grasp of human psychology. As she recounts her experiences she is also wrestling with questions as to why a particular person behaved the way he or she did. She offers her unique insights into the person’s mind.
Even when it comes to herself and her relationships she grasps the emotional and psychological nuances and workings of the same. One of the most poignant chapters in the book is ‘I could never touch you’. It exemplifies all that makes Nasrin a great writer- the manner in which she describes the pain and longing for a lost lover and a relationship that has ended. As she writes about her life and her interactions with various poets, there is a generous sprinkling of poetry written by her contemporaries in the narrative. This adds to the beauty of the book.
The Gender story
So the only course had been the one available to most women if they wished to escape their fathers house- exchange it for their husband’s.
She is open and brazen about gender issues that are very important for her. The book is filled with examples of gender inequality in a patriarchal society. Some of these examples and issues are serious ones concerning the violence and discrimination that women experience. Others are little day to day instances that put women in a secondary position. The book talks about both these kinds of instances that she has seen around her, or experienced herself. She comes out sharply and strongly against these inequalities.
Split is a powerful book, written by a woman whose name evokes more powerful reactions. Not many uphold and defend their right to freedom of speech as Taslima Nasrin has done. Split by Taslima Nasrin an intense read which provides a glimpse into the mind of one of the key thinkers of our times.
Title: Split: A Life
Author: Taslima Nasrin ( translated by Maharghya Chakraborty)
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Mother Earth, Sister Seed: Travels through India’s farmlands by Lathika George reveals the author’s deep connection with farmlands and farming in India. George visits farms across the length and breadth of the country, collecting gems of knowledge about a forgotten and rapidly disappearing way of life. This extensive journey cannot be made without a deep-rooted passion for the ‘farming life’.
“For years now, I have never missed a chance to visit farms and agricultural communities, always experiencing the deep connection and a sense of kinship as I participated in their daily lives. Eating, celebrating and sharing these special moments have been moving and humbling experiences. The farms and communities I chose to visit were mostly small holdings, where farming was a way of life-small farms and village communities with unique and indigenous systems: localised farming calendars, water management techniques, methods of saving seeds and grains, and the myriad rituals that mark the onset of each farming cycle from ploughing to harvest,”
What farming means to the author is vastly different from what farming is perceived by many urban dwellers, who unfortunately see it as a rough life filled with uncertainty. We hear a lot of farmer suicides and the difficulties that drive them to seek an urban life. But, India used to be a haven for farmers! Traditional farming communities lived in harmony with nature and enjoyed a good quality of life. Why do we see things differently now? What has caused that change? The book is a quest to know when ‘the cycle of death has replaced the circle of life’. It is a book that is born of the conviction that the future of the earth lies in the hands of those who are its natural partners and agrarian communities that practice sustainable farming.
This book is in a sense an agrarian travelogue. Each chapter describes a visit to a specific farming community in India. She travels to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Suderbans in West Bengal, Khasi Hills in Assam, Dahanu in Maharashtra, Sikkim, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and a few other states in India.
In quite an intensive write-up, she writes about the specific crops grown in each place, the customs and traditions of the community therein, the traditional farming techniques practiced there and the modern changes that are impacting the farming community.
Thanks to George’s lyrical language one feels as if it is a story, as she narrates her interactions and observations, punctuated by poetry and legends, like one would for an enticing travel tale. However, she gently weaves in the modern moves imposed by government or changing social scenarios that threaten the old ways of life. The illustrations and photographs aptly add to the narrative.
There are myths and folklore linked to various regions that the author incorporates as well, and some of these stories are fascinating. The glories of farming life are expressed through songs and poems as well as she dips into some rich literature.
The author herself is living the “farming life” after a long spell of urban living. This puts her in a unique position to appreciate an agrarian life. She reveals in the book:
“Thirty years ago, I had moved to the countryside with my husband and three children but my own progression from the city to a small town on the mountains had been gradual, peppered with moments of uncertainty, days of pining for the undeniable pleasures of urban life. The memory of a morning such as this came to me, when I realised this was what I wanted, after all, the trade for the vibrancy of city life to a life lived on different terms: the slow pace of living, the open spaces and the clean mountain air. It was a full life in every way, I decided, with no missing pieces,”
As we travel across farmlands in India, what stands out poignantly are the human stories. There are tales of hardship, but also tales of success and satisfaction. There are some heart wrenching tales as well – such as one about the Sunderbans where hunger drove forest dwellers to seek honey in the forest despite very real threats from man eating tigers. A Srilankan farmer settled in India says, “we are all refugees in one way or the other”, highlighting the plight of refugees who have turned to farming to sustain themselves in the South of India.
We often talk about the food chain and the interdependency of living organisms. The instances provided in the book show that “Every element of nature that contributes to each stage is crucial – the rain, the birds, the bees and the worms that form the cycle of growth, from seed to soil to fruit,”. How this chain is being disrupted also comes across in the narrative. Unrestrained development, cities cutting into forests, prices on land becoming much more than crops could ever earn for the farmer. All these challenges point to a looming threat of losing what has sustained us!
And yet, there is hope.
If she describes how modernization and unscrupulous government policies have impacted farming in India in a negative manner, she also talks about positive contributions. In the chapter on the farmlands of Sikkim she illustrates how governments can support farming by supporting traditional methods and adding innovative practices. Indeed, Sikkim has the distinction of being India’s only organic state with organic produce.
The depiction of life on a farm may be appealing to urban citizens. As one of the farmers, KC Ayapoa from Coorg says in the book, “It’s not the back-breaking, thankless work everyone makes it out to be. It is hard work, sure, but there’s also plenty of time for other stuff. And it is work like any other, with moments of sheer joy and discontent,”. The book has examples of modern city dwellers who’ve gone back to their roots and embraced a farm life. They come with new insight and knowledge and remain a ray of hope.
I found the chapter The Traveling Seed quite illuminative. After all, any crop is about the seed. It was surprising to know the politics surrounding seeds and seed monopolisation. But despite this despairing account, it is heartening to know that many Indians are protecting indigenous seeds.
I also found local tricks and solutions by indigenous farmers quite interesting. For example, in the coffee plantations of Coorg the presence or absence of certain nondescript plants indicates the PH level of the soil, and its readiness for coffee bean cultivation. Or, the natural water irrigation system of the Khasi tribes in the northeast use a network of bamboos that work as pipes. But I guess the best was a farmer in Kerela rearing spiders to weave webs around his farm in order to protect crops from pests!
Towards the end of the book, there is a chapter on traditional farming systems which works as a kind of glossary of terms and phrases relevant to Indian agriculture as well as a state wise description of traditional architectural techniques. A book that celebrates authentic food growing cannot be devoid of recipes. The cherry on the cake is a host of local recipes- right from the farm to table!
This book looks into the life of the Indian farmer. It is a first-hand glimpse into the travails and the many pleasures of living in tune with nature. It also takes a look at how this sacred link has slowly been the victim of modernisation. It will be of special interest to those with an interest in agriculture and farming in India and as well as those who are keen on an agrarian lifestyle.
Title: Mother Earth, Sister Seed: Travels through India’s farmlands
Author: Lathika George
Publisher: Penguin Random house
Other books by the same author:
Dream Big by Dr. Mukesh Jindal and Arunraj VS is a book that aims to demystify the world of investments, that laymen often wary of.
The simple goal of the book is financial literacy, which is why it goes beyond mere description of different investment options, but also talks about core and timeless principles, values and habits related to wealth creation.
The underlying philosophy of the book is that every individual is entitled to make an unlimited amount of money provided we look at money making as a skill that must be learned. This ‘skill building’ is what the book intends to do.
Before delving into the nitty gritty of wealth management, the book talks about some crucial issues: the importance of saving money, the difference between saving and investing, why it is important to understand that one’s investments need to beat inflation, the power of compounding and wealth creation. Dream Big explains each of these issues in relative detail so as to set the stage for the actual strategies that are to be outlined in the book.
Something that one normally does not find in investment books, but that is relevant nevertheless is the premise that ‘Time is money’. Dream Big actually devotes a whole chapter to this simple statement, giving tips on using time effectively to increase income.
This investment category clearly emerges as one of the most preferred in this book. The chapter on mutual funds explains the concept and working of mutual funds in a simple manner. In fact, the author even goes on to say that an SIP, or Systematic Investment Plan is a passive way to become a millionaire. The chapter also traces the history of mutual funds in India, for someone who is interested in going down that route as well.
The book delves into details about myths associated with mutual fund investments and the different types of mutual funds based on investment objectives as well as maturity period. This actually works as a ready reckoner for someone looking at investing in mutual funds.
Dream Big purports that equity funds are the way for long term wealth creation. It not only delves into the types of equity funds, but also provides pointers on how to choose the right one for a specific goal.
Life insurance is designed to cover life. Yet, people look at it as a form of investment as well. Does it work as an investment? What are the types of life insurance and how can one make an informed choice regarding which one to choose for specific goals? Dream Big extensively covers these areas.
Other investment options
Options like National Pension Scheme, OPF, NSC, Tax-Free bonds and so on are well known amongst people. The book outlines these investment tools in detail, explaining the relative advantages and disadvantages of the same. Likewise, it describes debt funds and how they can meet specific needs, as well as how they are better than fixed deposits.
The book looks in detail at the whole gamut of mutual funds and the finer points that an investor needs to be aware of, including some common mistakes that investors make.
Challenging old notions
There has been a lot of thought recently about whether real estate could be considered a good investment. The book talks about real estate as an investment for personal consumption vis à vis looking at it purely from an investment perspective.
It also takes an honest look at investment in gold and weather investment in gold is really as glittering as one may want to believe.
Dream Big also discusses specific tips related to retirement planning, investment for children, investment planning for women, Defence personal, those who are divorced and also for senior citizens. It outlines the differences between writing a Will and forming a Trust to pass on your wealth.
As they say, one size does not fit all. Different people have different needs and goals and hence their investment decisions have to be tailored to their unique circumstances. The book in that sense tries to be very specific and cover the whole range of investment options and tips for a wide variety of people.
Note: In view of the recent budget presented in 2018, some of the tax implications on some investments could vary. Readers must take that into account.
Putting it together
What should one do after being armed with the wealth of information on different modes of investment? There is one more step that helps put it all together, exactly determining the course of action based on ones needs and requirements. The section on risk assessment and asset allocation looks at this aspect. It is essential to review one’s investments regularly and rejig them based on changing situations and goals in life. The book explains portfolio reviewing and rebalancing strategies as well.
The language is simple and the information is presented in short paragraphs with generous use of headings, subheadings, bulleted lists, graphs and diagrams. This makes the material easy to read and access.
Tying everything together
Dream Big aims to address the rampant financial illiteracy in our country. It gives tips not only on how to invest wisely but also on how to avoid pitfalls. How can one use this book? In my opinion, it is best read the first time to get a clear picture of the arena of investments. Then, it must be re-read taking into account one’s specific goals and requirements.
A lot of age old philosophies to do with money form the crux of the book and these principles are its very soul. Still, the newer investment instruments that have been game changers have been rightly propagated in the book. This is probably what makes Dream Big an apt tool for those seeking to grow and increase their wealth exponentially.
Title: Dream Big
Authors: Dr. Mukesh Jindal and Arunraj VS
Publisher: Bestsellers 18, TV 18 Broadcast Limited.
This book review is a part of “The Readers Comsos Book Review Program and Blog Tours, for details log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.i
What makes up a good life? A great job, good home, loving family…and a healthy body and mind. Very often we tend to ignore the ‘health’ aspect, until we face a problem. This is when someone needs to step in. Someone, who can guide us in a holistic manner. Through the story of Amit Malhotra, a 35-year-old investment banker, life coach Jasmin Waldmann talks about this journey towards fitness, which we all mean to undertake, but very often don’t.
When fiction meets non-fiction
This is a self-help book that tells a story. This format makes it appealing to readers. Remember the age-old “Show…Don’t Tell” rule for writing? Well, through Amit’s story, the book shows how a healthy fulfilling future is indeed in our reach, without appearing to be preachy.
Amit Malhotra lives the proverbial good life. He has a great job and is doing financially well. He owns a house in one of the most envious neighbourhoods. He has a loving family comprising of his wife and two children. It is all perfect is it not? Not really. The young successful man loses a close friend and colleague to a fatal heart attack- right in the middle of a conference. This shocking incident forces him to look into his own life- and the drastic changes he needs to make in his diet, lifestyle and attitude if he does not want to meet the same fate.
A holistic look
Amit gets in touch with a life coach named Natalie Kofman. Then begins a journey that sets him on a path of holistic development that involves fitness training, life coaching, mindful eating and meditation.
One of the important concepts that this book brings out is the fact that good health is not just about reducing weight. Weight-loss is just one aspect of the entire package. It needs to be combined with a healthy illness-free body, good attitude, peaceful mind, nutritious food and attention to happiness in life and relationships.
The gradual change in Amit’s mind-set as he interacts with his life coach, mirrors the changes that one expects to see in oneself. At the end of each chapter, one gets a glimpse into Amit’s diary, where he notes down the key things he has learnt and his thoughts on the process of change. This mindfulness on Amit’s path, also expresses and shows the gradual change that he experiences on the path to personal transformation- not only in his weight and fitness, but also in his relationships with his family, team at work and above all, himself!
What’s in it for the reader?
As a reader of a self-help book, it is nice not being told what to do, but instead, through an example, being shown what to do. This is exactly what Jasmin Waldmann does. By following the path and journey of Amit, who in a sense reflects most of us today, readers can pick up cues as to the life changes that they can implement in their own lives.
The book also outlines the role of a life coach who has emerged in recent times as a professional who can help in holistic development of the individual. It glides through information about the Pilardio concept (a workout that combines Pilates and Cardio) and the JaWa Diet. Jasmin Waldmann is the inventor of Pilardio and the developer of the JaWa Diet.
Change Me by Jasmin Waldmann is a book that could be a good starting point for a series of small but effective changes in order to transform your mind and body.
Title: Change Me
Author: Jasmin Waldmann
Publisher: Jaico Books
Genre: Health, Self-Help
Bibek Debroy provides a very intellectual morning fix for many readers. His famed limericks (a humorous five-line poem with a rhyme scheme aabba) encapsulate current events in a short poetic burst. It leaves the readers with a smile and a different insight into what is happening in the world around us.
Penguin has compiled some of these limericks in book form. Bibek Debroy’s The Book of Limericks is a commentary on 2017. While the book is filled with brilliant limericks, the illustrations accompanying each limerick do complete justice to the experience of reading the book.
These witty verses are based on current events. In a few rhyming lines the limericks reflect social, political and economic themes and events.
For instance, we can all recollect an incident from last year, involving a politician getting abusive with airline crew. He puts it thus:
This MP is a crassy chopper,
Deft in wielding a dusty slipper,
He gave the crew several whacks.
Downgraded now to railway tracks,
How will he next flap his flipper?
Of the infamous board battles that marked last year, he says….
Why is an internal board battle
Grist for media prattle and tattle?
Is it because a backseat mentor
Remains a perpetual tormentor,
Treating a company like personal chattel?
Or the issue with China
The dragon breathes more fire
Threatening consequences dire,
With Bhutan in sight
It displays its might,
But there is nothing to make India perspire.
There are few limericks that transcend specific time bound current events. These are a general comment on societal trends, and not related to a specific political event.
After International Yoga Day
Don’t stow that may away.
A fetish once a year
Will make it appear
As no more than a symbolic sobriquet.
One which particularly moved me is:
At least once a year
Gandhiji is held dear.
Motions having been made
And due respect paid,
Life moves back to the usual gear.
Some of the limericks can be read with a new perspective, now that the year has gone by and situations have changed.
Is the rampaging bull
Covering our eyes with wool?
Does the tango with growth
Not do justice to both?
Does capital market lug more than real can pull?
In short, a great book for a different kind of reflection on the year gone past!
Though I’m no Bibek Debroy, here’s a little ode to the book, in limerick-style of course!
Digest the year past in poetic form
Minus sensationalism and storm
A souvenir of the year gone by…
Read and devour news differently…at least try!
Who knows what insights can be drawn?
While all his fans continue to relish his limericks that appear in the Mint newspaper, I’m sure the of 2018 will call for a new compilation for the year gone by in true Bibek Debroy style!
Title: The Book of Limericks
Author: Bibek Debroy
Illustrator: Sayan Mukherjee
Genre: Non-Fiction, Current Affairs
Spunky. Sassy. Straight from the heart. That’s exactly what one can expect from Shobhaa De’s writing. Seventy and to Hell with it, her latest book marks seven decades of De’s life. As she turns seventy her sharp analytical gaze turns inwards. She dissects, analyses, opines…starting off from the fact that she is now seventy, and what it means to her. De runs us through a gamut of topics and issues that have been an integral part of her life.
One of the basic and most honest premises in the book is that seventy is seventy. Unapologetically seventy. Shobhaa De makes no qualms about that. She does not try to sugar coat it by saying that seventy is the new fifty! Yes, we may have a romanticised view of age, but the body does not really respond that way. So, seventy it is. But, whoever said that seventy is not fun?
While the book is indeed all about Shobhaa De, nowhere does one feel that it is narcissistic. In fact, it is more of a conversation with readers. A friendly conversation where De sometimes evaluates her ‘take’ on life.
When De started writing she was known as a society writer. While her columns were always a tongue-in cheek look at the current socio-political scenario, her novels were a witty portrayal of the elite. However, her later works have been very personal. For instance, Speedpost was a collection of letters to her children. Shobhaa at Sixty, was also about age, but a little more external if one could say that! With her latest, she is at her reflective best.
A gamut of ideas
The book starts off with the idea of “space” and what it means to different people at different times. She takes on many different subjects including the social media jungle we find ourselves in, ageism, sexism, parenthood, relationships, politics and much more.
She shares her exasperation about social media when she says:
FB does not encourage the use of mirrors. It prefers filters. We all strive to present versions of our true selves, hoping to fool the rest. Since the pantomime is effortless and in most cases harmless, we carry on and on, our free hours consumed by an activity that is essentially hollow and futile.
Her opinions on parenthood have always been evidently strong and clear. For instance, she says:
I don’t understand the word ‘interfere’ when it comes to children. There is no such thing as ‘interference’. Either you are intimately involved in the minutiae of their lives or your children could be dead.
Amongst the different ideas that emerge from the book, what comes across most passionately is De’s love for the youth of today- her immense respect for the generation of today, and also a deep strong concern for rights of women. She has always been known to voice what she believed in and the book is no different. She is privy to, and empathizes with what she calls ‘the secret lives of women’ who constantly have to walk the tightrope. In fact she dedicates the book to “all female gladiators”.
What a waste that gigantic heap of ‘cant’s’ becomes over time. A futile and expensive waste of a woman’s best years- her best energies, talents, her most passionate feelings of love. If only women could discard all the ‘cant’s’ and embrace the ‘cans’.
In my opinion, Seventy and To Hell with it seems to be De’s most confessional work yet! De weaves in her unique perspective on life, with her witty and irreverent observations of the world around us. She uses interesting examples from our social and political scenario as well as anecdotes and instances from her vast circle of family and friends to illustrate many of her points. But perhaps at the end of it all, the underlying message that really hits the reader is that without the solid foundation of love, life does not have meaning!
Penguin Random House, 2017
We often associate the word etiquette with a certain kind of elitism. Many people think that etiquette rules apply to high-fliers of society and to certain exclusive formal situations. This could not be farther from the truth. Image consultant and grooming expert Rukshana Eisa redefines etiquette rules and applies them to our day to day lives in her new book, The Golden Code: Mastering the art of social success.
She establishes a case for following etiquette rules in regular life situations and not view good etiquette as something that is only restricted to certain business and social situations for a certain group of people. Having convinced us that etiquette rules and their application must just be second nature to us, Eisa moves on to identify these rules through three different areas- communication, personal grooming and entertaining.
Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said,”. Eisa speaks about importance of body language. She talks about crucial aspects of business and social communication such as handshakes, exchanging business cards, respecting space, communicating in a job interview, writing a resume, conversation in a social set up- what and what not to say, telephone etiquette and so on. She also devotes an entire chapter to tricky social situations, including ones involving children with bad manners!
We live in a time where the Internet and social media are an integral part of our social lives. Quite aptly, Eisa incorporates topics such as email etiquette. Again, in keeping with the times she has tackled issues like gym and supermarket etiquette rules as well!
Beauty maybe skin deep, but no harm really enhancing it from outside as well as within right? This section covers the basics of skin care, makeup, eating well, dressing and accessorizing to bring out the best in you. I found this section to be quite useful and brimming with handy tips and tricks! Diet, skin care and fashion- this section breezes through what’s to know in these areas. Appearance is after all the basis of first impressions, more often than not. Hence, there is no running away from that!
How can you be a great host? And, how can you be the best guest? What are the etiquette rules you need to follow in social situations involving entertaining, be it at a home or in a restaurant or party hall? What are the specific rules to remember when it comes to fine dining? And, what do you do if you commit a faux-pax?
This section handles these questions and more with ease. A very useful part is the topic of tipping, which is indeed something that could get confusing. Eisa covers this area really well, outlining the tipping conventions not only in India but also in different countries of the world. For instance, it was interesting to see that not tipping in a restaurant in the US may be taken quite offensively, and tipping a waiter in Japan may be looked at with offense as well!
Eisa not only outlines the good etiquette rules, but also covers in detail what one could do in case one makes an etiquette blunder or in case someone else does. For example, in the section on handshakes she not only covers what a good handshake is but also talks about what you can do if someone makes a social blunder like holding your hand too long, giving you a bone crushing handshake and so on!
Easy and breezy
The book is a light and informative read. The language is very simple and direct. Apt illustrations and captions intersperse the text. Important points are highlighted not only though images by also through side boxes and captions.
Eisa has extensive experience in training a wide range of people in etiquette rules. What also makes the book interesting is that she weaves in many personal experiences from her interactions with people, in order to illustrate her point.
Eisa is clearly writing for an Indian audience and hence she incorporates many elements unique to Indian culture (example, namaste as a replacement for a handshake in some situations).
“Think about any question you’ve had regarding the how’s of human interaction and the answer is always the same. Etiquette. It is the bedrock of basic human behaviour and the key to a kinder, nicer world,” says Eisa. This is exactly what the book sets out to accomplish, in a simple easy-to-follow format. Read through it once and then use it as a go-to manual from time to time.
Well, the book clearly also establishes that etiquette rules! Why is it important to read this one? To put it in the words of Shweta Bachchan Nanda, who quotes in the preface, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression “.
Title: The Golden Code: Mastering the art of social success.
Author: Rukshana Eisa
Publisher: Jaico books