The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri | Book Thoughts

This was my third read by Jhumpa Lahiri. I had first read ‘The Lowland’ and then the ‘Interpreter of Maladies’. I had ‘The Namesake’ as a rather old copy with soft, auburn pages.

Book Thoughts

The Namesake is a story across generations revolving around different family characters. Ashoke and Ashima are Indian Bengalis who have moved to suburban America during the initial periods of their marriage. Ashoke moved here to sort of recreate his own life, become independent and build a career. Ashima, as a consequence, had to move with him, as for most Indian women of 1960s.

Both Ashoke and Ashima face adjustment issues in a different continent in their own ways, the difficulties may be more pronounced for Ashima. Through the story of Ashima and Ashoke, we discover how they restart their life in a place so new, totally unlike their native with its promises and opportunities, miles away from their community, their people, their heart etching for their one letter, one phone call. They are now yearly visitors for the people they once shared a roof with.

Gogol is their son, whose born in America, with his oblivious roots in India-held sacred by his parents. Quite naturally, he comes to despise the trips to their native land, to which his parents long for over months and years. Just like they feel like a misfitting corkscrew in the wheel of the new life they have created, Gogol feels uprooted and dislocated, in a place which is ‘home’ to his parents.

It is a heartwarming, beautiful story of a family, the differences that look like betrayals, the finding of one’s identity among conflicting values and traditions.

Writers like Jhumpa are magicians who swing the wands of their literary wisdom and a cascade of beautiful words is the outcome, that takes you through different lives, different times.

Publisher: HarperCollins India

 

Educated, Tara Westover | Book Thoughts

I was introduced to this book while watching the Netflix limited series ‘Inside Bill’s Brain- Decoding Bill Gates’. It was even on the Best Memoirs on Good Reads. I feel I have a thing for books that are about seeking education despite odds, overcoming challenges – and so it made its way to my reading list.

Book Thoughts

Tara Westover grew up with her family in Idaho, whose head (her father) forbids school education, medical aid, and considers government as a vicious institution conspiring against them. Thereby, she lives on without a birth certificate, and without any formal education in a distorted, non-mainstream doctrine of life that has been created for her.

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It might take you a few chapters to be able to visualize the life Tara and her six siblings are subjected to- that her father makes his children work with humongous iron scrapes in his junkyard and denies medical services even if one of his children runs burning down the hill.

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And even though, Tara’s world is so unimaginable, so very astonishing, one would still be able to relate with her anxieties, her moments of self-doubt, and the times she felt like an outlier.

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And here I would use my favorite word again- ‘inspiration’. This memoir inspires you and at the same time, intrigues you. As Tara grows up and realizes that it’s time to step out of the distorted and created reality that she has been brought up with, she succeeds to get into college where a new world uproots her former beliefs about the world, her ignorance about it.

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All the while, I feel that the hardships, and toughness with which she has been brought up eventually give her the power and force to recreate her life and how.

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I finished with this book early in October and I know I am going to come back to it. It is unforgettable, it is astonishing, it is powerful and inspiring.

 

Option B, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant | Book Thoughts

Option B is one of those mind nutrition books that I consider call as the book that ‘makes new neural connects for my brain’. Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook who also runs nonprofit initiatives like Optionb.Org,  talks about her heartbreaking and life changing experience of losing her husband, going through grief, the different phases of grief, and the challenges that come in different forms through grief in one area. Trauma is never linear. Change in one area of life affects so many others.

Being a mental health professional myself, I was inspired by how this book combines the scientific findings of Adam Grant (a psychologist) with the personal insights of Sheryl. Together they narrate and put forward ways in which different forms of grief, traumas and life changes can impact individuals and their lives. And also, how post-traumatic stress and disorder can eventually lead to Post-Traumatic Growth (a term often found in positive psychology books).

One of the most important insights for me to take from this book was that grieving individuals or individuals going through challenging life issues (for instance a friend who may have lost a family member, or going through a challenging health condition, or finding adjustment difficulty) require acknowledgement and support. We often shy away from them, and avoid having the ‘tough’ discussion of not knowing what to say. This books comes in handy for that. So talk to them about it, even if you feel uncomfortable initiating such a discussion. All they need is a listening ear and an acknowledging heart.

It’s a little book, but carries immense wisdom.

 

And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini | Book Thoughts

‘And the Mountains Echoed’ is the book by my most treasured story tellers (surely an understatement) of all times- Khaled Hosseini. His books revolve around the life of people who have lived in Afghanistan, the insurgency of the Taliban, how war changes life, and how it creates ripples of changes in different destinies over years. The most significant element of his books is probably the touch of childhood nostalgia, separation and pain of war, and of course the nuance of irony.

I have read the other two of his laurels- (‘The Thousand Splendid Suns’ and ‘The Kite Runner’), and actually read this one some time before during my post graduate years. But as I mentioned in a previous post,  I develop a special meaning and connection with a book (especially fiction and even a movie for that matter) in the second rapprochement. Hence, reread it and here are my book thoughts about it.

It is a story of Abdullah and Pari, siblings living in miserable poverty. Abdullah, being the elder one, dotes on his younger sister like a mother, as they lost their biological mother. He is the primary nurturer for her, who finds a purpose of his life marveling at this baby sister, finding the sole happiness in her existence and walking (literally) all odds to see her gap toothed smile.

Alas, due to fate, or due to the golden spoon given only to the privileged in Afghanistan, their father has to give away Pari-hollow heartedly- to a wealthy family where his daughter would be assured not just meals and basic necessities everyday, but also the affluence and richness of the life only the privileged lot has witnessed.

‘A finger had to be cut, to save the hand’

The separation of Abdullah and Pari is painful, it makes you empathize with Abdullah, the agony is etched in your heart. From here, the story resumes with life of different characters beautifully weaved with the same nuance of nostalgia and irony.

Even though I may have tried to pen down something about this book, I know that my Book Thoughts can never do justice for what a wonder this book is, for what a prodigious story teller and writer Hosseini is.

All I can say is that if you ever feel like picking up fiction and cross by any of his work, do pick it up.  Just one note for my fellow readers who may be planning to read any of his books, try and read them without any major reading gaps (as in few days) because there are lives of so many characters that require a regular connect with the book.

Also, on a side note, I have revered and reread ‘The Thousand Splendid Suns’, and it is one of the best stories I have ever read in my lifetime.

Tales of Fosterganj, Ruskin Bond | Book Thoughts

I received this as a birthday present from my colleague or as I like to say ‘fellow in adulting’. What better present it is, to be gifted a book!

Even though I count myself quite a diligent reader, I had not read any of the Ruskin Bond’s, this being my first, and I truly, truly savoured it. The writer narrates his story of this town, Fosterganj in a comical, simplistic way. The whole book has a flavour of nostalgia, which I love. Such a pleasant read, given how the literature can actually take you to this far off, somewhere lost place, through mere innocent and modest words. Must, must read.

Also, definitely going to come back to this book, sometime again. I am one of those readers who appreciates the story more in the second rapprochement.

Becoming, Michelle Obama

I think I had an eye on this one before it’s launch. And you know the plausibility that a book is a best-seller when you see it being omnipresent with all the roadside book-waale-bhaiyas. Hence, I picked it, with no thought.

My early acquaintances with Michelle Obama have been through her ingenious speeches. I remember I was drawn towards one of her witty phrases which worked for the little me, in the late teen years when funnily only heart breaks are so catastrophic to us, (and not the present toughs of turning twenty something, the existential crisis-okay, I’ll not crib about adulting here); it went like: ‘there is no boy at this age that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education’. (One of my closest friends still remembers this).

So, yes, very many reasons, and I knew its going to be one of my most enlightening reads for 2019 already.

Coming to the book, it’s divided into three parts, Becoming Me, Becoming Us, Becoming More

The ‘Becoming Me’ is where she talks about her growing up years, her school routine, playing in her room all alone with her dolls, feeling sunny when things went by set routines, and Sunday visits to grandpas and grandmas, the vivid memories that stay even after years. Her solo aim then, to fit in the approved conventional careers to make a comfortable living, eventually becoming a top shot lawyer from Havard. All the time answering that one question in mind, ‘Am I good enough?’. Growing up with racial discrimination, its impact on the neighborhoods, impact on shaping the personality of a growing teen. The question then sometimes loud, ‘Am I good enough?‘.

The ‘Becoming Us’ brings into picture her initial days with Barack Obama, an exceptionally bright law student, someone you may visualize having a sort of superior intelligence who ‘inhales’ hefty philosophies as beach side reads and with a goal to serve the community, and not just settle into a high-end, posh office. From being a lady who desired to fit into the conventional career, and resisting herself to fall for this man, she eventually does fall for him, and how. Somehow Barack’s drive for working for the larger concerns, something beyond self, ignites in her the drive to come out of the monotony, and do something real that quenches that drive. We know where they land up with that zeal.

Becoming More‘ part may seem something abstract as one can’t imagine living in the White House, yet through her narration, you live the hardships of being out there, working in the eyes of public scrutiny, being the FLOTUS and POTUS, and also the parents to two young daughters, and embracing the shame and the praise that comes with the work. You learn the power of her story-telling, and the compassionate and path-breaking work through their campaigns for nutrition, youth education, and the need for minorities to raise a voice.

-It is more than a memoir, it is more than inspiring. I am no one to give a rating to this, it’s plain phenomenal.

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end”.

Think & Grow Rich: Book Review 2018

So, this is one of the many self-help, non-fiction books I have had on my shelf. But, this one was a rather old copy which was lying there since many years, with microscopic font and archaic, brown pages (Though I love the books whose pages turn auburn, who doesn’t?). I would want to admit that I started reading this book back in 2015, with the same reason I picked it up now in 2018, to master my laziness (oh ya, the better word- ‘procrastination’). Quite not ironically, I could not push myself till the end, cause lets claim it: it’s hard to be connected with self-help books, and many of them seem to be putting forward the same principles.

Yet, I reached somewhat of a rapprochement with it in the early of 2018, considering my unconditional devotion to the god of ‘procrastination’, and also because my mode of commute is the Delhi Metro for a good 45 minutes every day. (Plus, it is one of the HT-Nielson BookScan Top 10 Non-Fiction Books ).

The title of the book says: Think & Grow Rich; now I wish to explain the meaning of two words of the title. The word ‘Think’ here may be misleading, as it may sound like a book preaching about going to the top of a cliff, and meditating about the richness one wishes to seek in life. (My brother actually mocked at me for reading it). Although a large chunk of the book’s principles do talk about training your thoughts to be focused, and affirmations for your mind, all consequently point towards actually taking the action through persistence. Another word is ‘riches’. Riches not just imply monetary abounds, but satisfaction in work, accomplishment of set goals, and the sane ways to their pursuit.

One of the engaging learnings for me through this was to write down my goals, and be very specific about-the aim, the ways to achieve it, and the exact time I would want to achieve it. And since I picked it up during the month of ‘resolutions’, it helped me keep up with some of them.

I would not say it’s a must read, because many principles are intuitive enough, especially in a time where we have access to umpteen inspiring talk shows and blogs. Nevertheless, it has stories of eminent personalities like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates, and each chapter is filled with adages and phrases. Reading them every day somewhat weakened my earlier non-proactive beliefs. And, with pride, I am finally through with the book. I would say it’s a 3/5 for me.

Open for lending the book!