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I am Malala – review

January 7, 2014 Leave a comment

My first book of the year and unarguably it was worth reading. This is one of those books which give you a plethora of factual information which drew minimal global attention because of the way they were handled by galactic politicians and bureaucrats. More than three-forth of the book is a narration of events in Swat valley, Pakistan, all through the first decade of this century. As the book progresses, you learn more about Pakistan Talibs and the havoc they wreaked in the valley. The story builds up slowly and takes you through how once a beautiful and picturesque valley turned into a valley of death and sorrow. But no complaints about why this book is more about the Talibs, the Swat valley or Pakistan politics; because Malala would not be the Malala as the world knows if these elements never existed.

What leaves you flabbergasted is the way a father raises his daughter, which is very unlikely for a place as described in the book. A place where girls cannot be seen outside their home, unless they are accompanied by their husband, brother or father; a place where girls are not allowed to speak in public and abstained from education; a place where girls are only meant to cook, deliver baby and take care of family and daily chores; it is amazing to know how an audacious father broke all the rules and defied the darkness created by Taliban in raising his daughter. Probably most of the parents in progressive and advanced world lack the attitude and reformist ideology that Malala’s father had. Not an instance was missed to acknowledge the efforts that Malala’s parents put in to infuse in her a passion and awareness towards education. The way this book describes “Talibanization” in Swat region, you will be taken unawares by how Malala’s father encouraged her for public speaking and interviews to spread awareness of women’s oppression in the region around the globe. Malala recounts dreaded days and nights her family and friends spent a midst fights between terrorists and army, schools being bombed and demolished every day, people getting beheaded in streets, public whippings and frequent death threats. The story continues to roll after she was attacked, and goes on to scrawl her complex surgical procedures,  rehabilitation and Nobel prize nomination.

This book also attempts to kill the conspiracy theories going around that Malala was never shot by Talibs and this was an impeccable plan which was hatched to create an icon for west to embrace. Many believe that she was a role model for children in Pakistan, but they feel that this book maligned her image and made her look like a tool in the hands of west to defame Islam and countries which follow Islamic laws. There are many who believe that because she was picked by BBC and helping many international agencies in their campaign against Taliban, she was treated differently than many other girls who are shot or killed daily in Taliban dominated areas. I am not well researched in this area and hence would refrain myself on commenting this. Thus, no wonder why this book is banned in most parts of the Pakistan.

This book is in all sense an inspirational story of a girl who continues to overcome numerous obstacles in her way created by obtrusive and orthodox society, politics, war and other factors. Along with giving a view of international conflicts, this is a story which would enforce your faith in your capabilities and make you believe that when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it, a quote from The Alchemist.

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The Second Wife (“Nirmala”) – Book Review

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

This novel is not for those who expect an element of entertainment from reading this book. The genre is quite dark and somber and may give you grinch that would steal all your excitement. That doesn’t mean this book is not worth reading but it is expected you to have a sense of appreciation for literary work accentuating callous social issues eating lives of weak and feeble.

Premchand has nicely woven the lives of different characters in the book. It is quite interesting to read how a small incidence associated with someone actually impacts the lives of all others. Apart from sending a social message in an assertive way, this book can be considered as reflection of Indian society back in the day.

Though the story of “The Second wife”, an English translation of Premchand’s “Nirmala” by David Rubin, is set in the pre-independence era, it still seems to be so fresh that you might relate various instances in the book to modern society in bits and parts. At times I found Premchand a bit careless with time frame set-up like in a span of 3 years, a character described as a student earlier, is later announced as a successful doctor with wife and a son. This story is about how families perished because of an unequal and imperfect wedding match. The female protagonist, Nirmala, was leading a comfortable and cheerful life in a big joint family with her father being sole earner. But there was something else stored in the womb of her future. Just when her father was about to set an alliance for her, he died. All the relatives who were leeching her father dry, were the first to flee when she needed their real support. To add to her woo, the boy cancelled the alliance fearing that she would not bring enough dowry after her father’s death. Forced by the situation or rather it should be said, to get rid of Nirmala and then focus on her siblings upbringing, Niramala’s mother marries her to an elderly widower, Totaram, with 3 teen-aged sons. Now starts a narration of an overwhelmingly painful story wrapped up in the ups and downs of emotionally abusive relationship.

Totaram’s excitement of getting re-married to a young girl starts vanishing soon as his suspicious thoughts get a grip over his mind and heart. Nirmala was of the same age of Totaram’s eldest son but grown motherly affection towards him soon after marriage. Totaram perceives this as adultery, which shattered and broke his son to the extent that this intense grief took his life. This incidence turned Nirmala, a fun loving character described earlier in the novel, completely callous and impassive. Death of Totaram’s eldest son, transformed his second son into an audacious and rebellious child. Events turn such that he commits suicide and youngest son of Totaram leaves house for ever. Aggrieved by the deaths of his sons, Totaram’s lost his interest in work and his career took a plunge that he could not even arrange 3 times meal in a day for his family. Highly dejected by her life had shown to her, Nirmala lost all zeal and zest for life. Later she also bids an adieu to the corrupt patriarchal society.

One has to understand that the book was written at the turn of 20th century when issues like child marriage, dowry system, forced marriages of young girls etc, held lives of women in agony and despair. Premchand sensitively touched upon the issue of injustice towards women prevailing in society during those days with earthiness. It is an all time classic and would recommend everyone to read it.

Two States

January 20, 2010 2 comments

Another Chetan Bhagat’s book launched around 2 months ago, Two States, being considered to be adapted for movie versions (like, Five Point Someone adapted as Three Idiots and One Night @ Call Center adapted as Hello). While reading, you can easily relate some or the other instances in the book with your real life experiences if yours is also a love marriage. At least I could feel the same as I went through a roller-coaster to turn my wedding dream into reality. Though at times you might feel as well that you are reading a fairy tale where in prince and princess fight to all odds and sometimes turn impossible to possible, yet you find yourself occupied until you finish the entire book.

2 States is Chetan’s autobiographical take on inter-caste (or community/region precisely) love marriages. The story revolves around Krish (a Punjabi boy from Delhi) and Ananya (a Tamilian girl from Chennai) who had their first encounter in IIMA. Ananya was the most beautiful, smart and sought after girl of the batch. Their friendship started on terms of only friendship and nothing else. Terms and conditions were forced by Ananya; otherwise you must admit a boy would never expect only friendship with a girl especially if she is the most beautiful girls aroundJ. Later on Krish realized that he had a huge crush on her and he could not be only friends with her. Some dramatic stuff took place and Ananya let him free of all her imposed terms and conditions. In the midst of study, exams, love and intimacy, their 2 years long stint with IIMA ends on a positive note with their dream jobs in hand. They decided to meet each other’s parents on convocation day, but events took place in a manner that worsened the situation. Then story takes a heroic turn and Krish joins his first job in Chennai (Ananya’s first posting was also in Chennai), recognizing he would get an opportunity to stay closer to Ananya’s family and would get ample chance to woo them. Ananya’s parents wanted her to get married to an IIT+MITian, who along with his parents came to Chennai to see Ananya. Lots of events took place like, Krish tutored Ananya’s brother on IIT entrance examination, helped Ananya’s father to create a classic presentation and boosted his morale to do it before senior management and finally made Ananya’s mother’s log time dream real to become a singer. All his efforts helped him to reap rich rewards finally. Girl’s parents gave a green signal on Krish and now it was her turn to woo Krish’s family. Meanwhile, Krish took transfer to Delhi and Ananya also followed him for a week. She stayed at Krish’s home, only to see her would be mother-in-law’s growing hatred towards her. She went to attend a wedding ceremony of Krish’s cousin where Groom side created some trouble and almost decided to end everything minutes before the final rituals. It caused panic in the family and then Ananya helped them come out of the trouble single handedly. This incidence suddenly turned the wave of appreciation and affection towards Ananya; even Krish’s long distant relatives were in favor of Krish and Ananya’s marriage. Now that Ananya’s family accepted Krish and Kirsh’s family accepted Ananya, but both the families had yet to accept each other.

Another side of the story was Krish’s poor relationship with his father. During the course of time the pit between their relationships also filled in. It was in fact  Krish’s father who played instrumental role to bridge gaps between two families. Finally Krish and Ananya tied the divine knot in Chennai with some funny and humorous instances quoted in the book, which you would definitely like to read.

Many books have been written on love stories, but this book scores high because of the way author has presented the story. There are times when you would feel that certain insignificant part of Krish’s life is described in vast detail. And then, there are times when author rushes through some of the relatively important parts. You might feel to stop and leave the book as it becomes too predictive at times. But, Chetan’s ability to hold the reader’s imagination ties up it for him. A nice story, full of Masala, and over to that it cost your pocket just under Rs. 100, is a worth bet.

Blink : The Power of Thinking – A review

I read about “Thin-Slicing” first when I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s 2005 non-fiction book Blink, which analyzes the concept of “thinking without thinking.” It means making quick decisions on little information.

Gladwell’s hypothesis says that thin-slicing can lead you to a big trouble and can sometimes help you to make great decisions also. If you have taken small amount of information to baseline a decision or to come to conclusion, you could be often incorrect. Just like that, I would like to take my previous post, “IT Services Providing Companies vs. IT Captive Units”. I won’t say that I am completely correct. It is completely based on my experience; I did not take any other’s view in consideration for that post and even though I generalized what I thought. I could be fairly incorrect.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell has used the killing of Amadou Bailo Diallo to explain that how disastrous could be the effect of rapid judgment. He was a Guinean immigrant in New York City who was shot and killed on February 4, 1999 by four officers of Street Crime Unit of New York City Police Department. These policemen mistook him as a serial rapist who they were searching. As they approached him, Amadou took his hand in his jacket and policemen thought he was pulling out a gun. Immediately they opened fire at him. The four policemen fired a total of 41 rounds resulting on the spot death of Amadou. Later on it became a very big issue worldwide. New York Police Department end up paying more than USD 3 million as compensation. As a result of killing of Diallo the Street Crime Unit was disbanded.

Among the other topics mentioned in Blink, is Pepsi Challenge. Pepsi representatives set up a table in malls or shopping centers or other public locations with 2 cups, one with Pepsi and the other with Coca-Cola. They asked the passers by to taste the drinks in both the cups. This test revealed that majority of the people liked Pepsi. But Gladwell says that success of Pepsi over Coca-Cola was the result of the nature of sip & taste. Sip & taste is always different than what you taste the same thing in large amount. You may not like a thing when you take a sip of that, but you take it in large amount, you may probably like it and vice versa. Sip & taste fails to account for the satiating effect that you feel when quantity of food is more. So this example again says that quick decisions on small information may be wrong.

But sometimes, as said earlier, some great decisions are also made in a jiffy with little information. The first story mentioned in Blink is of Getty Kouros. It was a statue hundreds of years old, dug out of the ground and brought to the J. Paul Getty Museum in California. It was considered to be one of the biggest archeological discoveries then. Many experts across the globe confirmed after their study that the statue was legitimate. It was put on display in the museum in 1986. Book says that when people first saw the sculpture their initial response was indifferent. They were not able to believe that the sculpture was ever under the ground. Later it was proved in 1990 that blink moment was correct. The statue was fake and even common people, with no knowledge of archeology could understood that there was something wrong with the statue when they first saw it.

The fascinating case studies, as mentioned above are the best part of this book. And whatever Gladwell says, it all goes in line with the concrete examples he mentioned.

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Brida

June 20, 2009 2 comments

Brida is the story of 21 year’s old beautiful Irish girl, Brida, who wanted to learn all about magic. It was not normal magic, but the magic to live life happily. She was struggling to find a balance between her relationships and her desire to transform herself. On her journey to quench her thirst of knowledge, she met Magus. He was an old Teacher of the Tradition, now living in exile of isolation in the forests of Ireland, atoning for a mistake made in his youth.

Brida met Magus, very keen to learn Tradition of the Sun (for wizards) with its powers of creation & revelation and of the Tradition of the Moon (for witches), the transformative & ritualistic power. As a way of teaching, The Magus left her alone in the forest to test her faith in God while experiencing the dark night. Brida was confronted by her fears and relied on her faith to help her make it through the night. It was light when she woke; a beautiful sun was gliding everything around her. She had understood that “Every moment in life is an act of faith”.

Probably it was not the way Brida wanted to learn. She had long been interested in various aspects of magic, but was searching for something more. So she started going to an occult bookstore and her search lead her to another teacher, Wicca, a woman who taught the rituals and knowledge of the ‘Tradition of the Moon’.  Brida carefully practiced the rituals, learnt to study tarot cards, keeping a candle burning, and dancing to the “sound of the world” (all explained in detail in the book)

With the help of both Wicca and the Magus, Brida learnt that soulmate did not have to be your lover, husband, and boyfriend. It could be anyone with whom you had an unusual bonding and you experienced so much so that you would want to be with that person for the rest of your life, you could not let him go because he was your real soul mate.

I won’t say that this book presents novel or revolutionary ideas, but they are soothing. One of the best parts of this book is that Coelho has introduced universal truths beautifully many a times in this book, like,

“Nothing in the world is ever completely wrong. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day”~ Brida’s father (Pg.99)

“What is now proved was once only imagined” ~ William Blake (Pg.174)

Brida used Magic and Religion as the tools to confirm her life choices and help envision her dreams. Coelho tries to teach in this book that one does not need religion to feel what is right or wrong right with the world and with the self. All that’s required is the trust in our sincerity, the trust in our sense and being audacious to move forward, in spite of our doubts, this is what Coelho collectively calls magic that Brida wanted to learn
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