Thursday, December 4, 2014

14 STORIES THAT INSPIRED SATYAJIT RAY - Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Well, the usual collection of short and simple stories which are more than just that. Each story (barring a couple of them maybe) is meaningful, well thought out, extremely well written, catches your attention, and at the same time talks about one of the many social evils that existing during those days in India.

The book includes stories written famous personalities like his own grandfather Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, Premchand and Rabindranath Tagore. The book opens with with a powerful story Devi, which showcases the blind faith people had during those days of reincarnated gods. There is one about a working wife who earns and travels more than her husband and how her in-laws speak ill about her despite her struggles to manage both work and home. Another one about two ex-lovers with their feelings for each other still fresh, who meet by chance years after the girl is forcefully married off to someone else. Another small but heart touching one called the Postmaster.

What I really appreciate about the stories is that they were so forward thinking even in those days and they dared to question the blind faith and the traditions followed by the society. The stories are really great for a light read and a great follow up thing to do would be watching all the movies which were later created by Satyajit Ray.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

THE LAST LECTURE - Randy Pausch

Hmm, So heres what I think, point wise:

1. Mr. Pausch, You have lead an amazing life and may your soul rest in peace.

2. Most of the lessons given by the professor are not generic. Most of them are very specific to his life, career and surroundings. For eg: his lesson on how to teach the students to be a good team player isn't really relevant to my life.

3. It may sound a bit unrealistic. Specially when he sounds like he achieved every single "specific" dream of his childhood. On the hindsight everything can be correlated. May be I was dumb as a kid but when I was little and would see a superhero movie, I would dream of being the superhero and not the person behind the special effects. I never knew kids were so matured. I might be wrong though.

4. And finally, with each chapter when you read how the professor lead such a perfect life achieving every single dream of his, You might get a feeling that he is bragging and that he is not down to earth. In his defense, he admits he is like that. I liked the honesty though.

Well that's about it. This book is not similar to the book "Tuesdays with Morrie" which is more about life in general. This one isn't. Although there a few good lessons but they are the usual ones like dream big, work hard, live life to the fullest, show gratitude, etc. You can skip this one since you won't find much you can relate to.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THE LINCOLN LAWYER - Michael Connelly

I picked this one up because someone said that the movie was really good. Its a typical whodunit murder mystery novel made for a light read. Mickey Haller is a defense attorney who is very good at twisting evidence to help small time not-so-rich criminals get acquitted. Although he helps the guilty get out of jail, he is not shown to be a man without principles. He just believes that the crimes are committed not on purpose to hurt anyone but out of desperation due to poverty or the background and hence such people must be given another chance. We can tell that he doesn't make a lot of money since he is shown to be consistently trying to get his clients pay for his services.

His big break comes when the son (Louis Roulet) of a rich realtor, and a realtor himself, chooses him to defend in his case of sexual assault and attempted murder on a prostitute. He at first believes that Louis is innocent but as he unfurls the investigation, he starts having doubts. So now he has to come up with a plan to solve this mystery and that's what the whole book is about.

The book is indeed gripping and keeps you hooked and wanting to know what happens next. I think that is where the book serves all the purpose (err, being a murder mystery novel). You won't find a big twist in the end like most other mystery novels but I think that is fine. It sounds plausible at least. Not a great writing but anyway that is not what is expected from such novels. It should be more about the mystery than feelings and emotions and introspection and philosophy and all that.

Anyway I heard the movie is really good. Skip this book and watch the movie instead.

Oh btw, he is called the Lincoln lawyer because he drives around in a Lincoln Town car. How lame is that? And here we are trying to find some relation with Abraham Lincoln. :|

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X - Keigo Higashino

A friend of mine who has a very good taste in books suggested this to me. I obviously read it with a lot of high hopes. I won't say all of that went waste but ya I was disappointed in the end for a very small thing.

This book is a typical murder mystery novel with the murder happening in the very first chapter and the rest of the book is all about how the intelligent and smart investigator figures it all out in the end. Sounds regular doesn't it? Well it is regular but also different in some ways.

One, the whole murder cover up was simply awesome. I don't think anyone could have even remotely guessed how it all happened and the fact that it is very much plausible makes it all the more impressive.
Two, the murderer is actually is math genius and its interesting how the author has tried to connect a particular math theory to the murder. (Its not like the author uses calculus and stuff but just the theory)

Well that's about it. The above two points and obviously the non-boring writing style makes this book quite addictive making you wanna read it real bad. The disappointing part comes in the end when the murderer reveals WHY he committed the murder. Oh that was so stupid! Nevertheless don't think that can be a deal breaker anyway. Just read it to know how he did it all.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

NINE LIVES: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India - William Darymple

Somehow the moment I picked the book, I felt it was a fiction novel. I didn't really bother to read through the back cover because I just wanted to kill time by reading something and picked this one up from my husband's bag.

So after I finished reading the first story I realized that they were actually true illustrations of lives of people the author had met and interviewed in person. That really got my attention and I got hooked to it. It is indeed really interesting to know that such things actually happened in India.

The book talked about people from certain religious cults who do spooky stuff (for people who lead the usual lives obviously). For example: a woman in Kolkata who lives in the cemetery grounds and drinks goat blood from the corpses' skulls to worship Goddess Tara.  Then there was a story about the Devdasis in Kerala who are into prostitution but still consider it sacred. One more on how the Dalits perform god dances to uplift their community against their oppression by the Brahmins. One story on Sufism. One on Jainism about the fasting to death ritual still being practiced. By the time you finish these stories, you will notice one common thread: Suffered in a village - Escaped - Traveled aimlessly - Found a religious group - Got a shelter, food and protection - Started believing that they are taken care of because of that particular god - Refuses to come out of it. There are other cultural information which are slowly dying like the singer of epics from Rajasthan, the god idol maker, and the singing baul tradition. Finally the story about a monk stuck between an ascetic life in Tibet and an army life to fight against the Chinese was also enlightening.

It will keep you hooked to it in the sense that you would be too surprised to know about the India which still refuses to leave some of its beliefs and hence you would want to know more. Definitely a must read.

Friday, February 7, 2014

OUTLIERS - Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers is a book by Malcolm Gladwell which explains why some people are successful. When you read this on the cover page the first thing that you would expect is something in lines of the book “Seven habits of highly successful people” but it is 30% that and 70% err not that.


In his defense, yes he does clearly mention in the first chapter itself that he is going to explain what circumstances made a particular successful. He claims that people are successful because they were lucky with certain things they received in life thus giving them the opportunity to improve their skills, practice and master. That lucky thing in life can be anything from the year you were born in, the month in an year you were born in, the kind of family you are born in, the location etc etc. Apart from other successful people he explains in the last chapter about his own mother as to how a lot of things in her life made her lucky and hence more successful that other girls.

This is both good and bad in a way. Let me tell you the bad first. Bad because it makes it easier for you to attribute your failure (if you think there is any) to you being unlucky in life and maybe stop trying . But the good thing is you will be less disappointed at yourself and you will learn what circumstances made someone famous and you will at least try to emulate that with your kids 



BEST KEPT SECRET - Jeffrey Archer

Oh such a kid’s book. I actually liked a lot of Jeffrey archer’s book but this wasn't anywhere close to being Archer-ish. Compared to his Kane and Abel this was probably on the other end of the spectrum.


In the book’s defense I didn't read it in the series I should have ideally read the story in. This book was preceded by ‘The Sins of the Father’ and is going to be followed by ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’. Well after reading this book I am glad I didn't read the preceding ones.

The book apparently picks up after the events in The Sins of the Father, with the House of Lords having to decide who will be the heir to the fortune of Hugo Barrington. The vote ends with a tie, which prompts the Lord Chancellor to vote in favor of Giles Barrington. This is when you will think that there will be a story with a lot of twists which will keep you guessing at the end of every chapter. The book was everything but that. It went in all possible directions with each chapter having no relevance to the previous chapters and each part ending abruptly or badly or both.

Sadly it was gifted to me and I hate to say that this was one of the worst books I have read. I really appreciate the gesture though.



INTERPRETER OF MALADIES - Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies is a book collection of nine short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri . This was my first book by Jhumpa Lahiri (saw Namesake only as a movie). Thankfully this was a book of short stories. I don’t think I have the patience to read such slow stories about NRIs in the US. This got boring too. Every story was similar in a way. Indians living abroad going through some kind of personal issue (Marriage, family, Identity etc etc). The writing is good. It is deep and draws you into the story. You start empathizing with the narrator and being an Indian maybe even relate to them in a way. This maybe Pulitzer award worthy but then again who I am to comment on those things.


The short story I liked the most was: "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar”. This is completely based in India about a mentally challenged girl who just wants to live a normal life like any other girl. Something about the ending, just touched me.

A good pick-something-light-and-finish-quickly book for your vacation maybe.



Saturday, May 4, 2013

INDIA UNBOUND - Gurcharan Das

Well, I picked this one up hoping to learn something new about my country. Things like what really happened after independence?, where did we go wrong?, why are we still suffering? etc. So did I learn something new? 30% Yes and 70% No.

The book has been divided into three parts:

Part 1. Our Spring of Hope (1942 - 65)
This section is about the events that occurred during our independence era. It was mainly about how we were treated by the British and how their policies were starting to change the face of our nation (obviously more in a bad way than good). This section also explains why certain things happened in India because of our certain inherent nature. He introduces a lot of interesting hypothesis which makes you think. Good start definitely in my opinion.

Part 2. The Lost Generation (1966 - 91)
This started off well but midway it got painfully repetitive. This section was all about "How the License Raj killed everything in India". He keeps on giving examples one by one proving the same point every time. A few interesting theories explaining the bad economics behind the Nehruvian  socialist policies. Interesting read till the examples start which everyone already knows.

Part 3. The Rebirth of Dreams (1991 - 99)
This section explains what happened after the liberalization policy which opened up our economy. This part is not new at all. The same thing about the rise of information technology industry, the rise of Middle class, Modernizing of out society. Nothing new or interesting in this section except one section which correlated different religions and cultures with the current state of their economies which actually could have been explained a little more in depth.

All in all, a decent book. Looks more like the struggle the author went through before and after independence and because of the License Raj when he was working with the Vicks Vaporub company. If you want to learn some new hypothesis and theories, read till the middle and stop. If you want to know something you didn't know about our history, you can pass this one.