Category Archives: #BookBytes

The Curious Case of a Young Boy #BookBytes 29

Hola friends.

I’ve been re-reading the biography of Naseeruddin Shah, the actor. I have enjoyed watching his films and some of them have stayed with me even though I watched them decades ago – Sparsh and Masoom to name two off the top of my head.

In his autobiography he talks with a candour seldom seen in film actors. But this is not a review. Today I pick a piece where he talks about his childhood.

Never a good student, he failed twice in grade 9. Here’s what he had to say about his tryst with academics.

I excelled in English but that was all. Maths was totally beyond me as were Physics and Chemistry, and as for Trigonometry……! It’s kind of bemusing to wonder how come it never occurred to any of my teachers to investigate the curious case of this child who always got the highest marks in the class in English literature and composition, yet failed in grammar.

– Naseeruddin Shah, And Then One Day – A Memoir

How could teachers have missed this?

What’s more food for thought, is that even now, when much is said to have changed in the academic world, things remain pretty much the same. Even with less than 30 children in a class students suffer from lack of evaluation that goes beyond text book knowledge. Even now Maths and Science remain the badge of honour worn proudly only by ‘smart students’.

The only positive change, as I see, is that there are more options available beyond maths and science. That is heartening, however it will be decades before societal perceptions in India change.

Do you think the Indian education system has changed over the years?

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Join in?

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on July 7.

The People Around Us #BookBytes 28

I usually share quotes from books I’m currently reading or ones I’ve read already. I like to know the context because, context, I believe, is important.

This time however I’m picking one from a book I haven’t read only because the quote spoke to me.

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves.”

― Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. A lot would have to do with how strong your own personality is of course.

More importantly, knowing this to be true, would anyone purposefully set out to surround himself/herself with people who would be ‘good’ for them? Speaking for myself, I am only guided by who I connect with. I have scores of friends who have charted diametrically different paths from mine and we’ve continued to be friends despite our life choices. Yet I cannot discount the idea completely.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Join in?

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on June 16.

Just Two People #BookBytes 27

World War I. Germany has taken over France. It’s Christmas Eve as a German Kommandant stands before a French girl saying:

“You shall forget that I am part of an enemy army, I shall forget that you are a woman who spends much of her time working out how to subvert that army, and we shall just . . . be two people?” 

Jojo Moyes, The Girl You Left Behind

Doesn’t this remind you a little of the famous dialogue from Notting Hill?

It’s incredibly romantic of course. My brain says it’s also highly unlikely outside of a book.

Tell me, is it possible to think of a man as ‘just a person’ when you’ve watched him shoot down your countrymen? Can one connect with the enemy on a human level? Can one have enough perspective to realise that there are no winners in a war? And that perhaps the perpetrator is just as troubled as the victim?

Perhaps it is. Perhaps one would never know unless one is in that situation.

I picked this quote from Jojo Moyes’ The Girl You Left Behind – a book that traverses two time zones. Do drop by for the complete review soon.

What’s the most romantic book you’ve read?

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on 2nd June 2020.

What is ‘Natural’? #BookBytes 25

I just wrapped up Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World and while I still have to make up my mind about the book but some of its quotes were too good to not be shared. And so I’ve been sharing them on social media all this past week. Here’s one that took my breath away with its simple wisdom.

D/Ali said that, as a rule, people who overused the word ‘natural’ did not know much about the ways of Mother Nature. If you told them how snails, worms and black sea bass were hermaphrodites, or male seahorses could give birth, or male clownfish turned female half way through their lives, or male cuttlefish were transvestites, they would be surprised. Anyone who studied nature closely would think twice before using the word ‘natural’.

– Elif Shafak, 10 minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World

Food for thought, right? How quick we are to label people, thoughts, behaviours unnatural, abnormal when ‘natural’ is way stranger than we can ever imagine.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on 3rd March 2020.

Memories #BookBytes 24

After a very satisfying January where I managed to read five books (I wrapped up the Lunar Chronicles) I’ll be slowing down this month. With that thought in mind I picked up Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. I’ve read two of her books and really enjoyed them. If this one is anything like them I know I’ll want to read it slowly, savouring every page, every word.

Here’s a quote I loved.

“But human memory resembles a late-night reveller who has had a few too many drinks: hard as it tries, it just cannot follow a straight line. It staggers through a maze of inversions, often moving in dizzying zigzags, immune to reason and liable to collapse altogether.” 

– Elif Shafak, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

I’m just about fifty pages into the book and I’m loving the way Shafak uses her analogies. I specially liked this one, apart from that last bit about ‘collapsing altogether’. The memory box is easy to open but tough to close and it doesn’t really ‘collapse’ for me.

I am, however, in whole-hearted agreement about memories zigzagging all over the place. They never do follow a simple pattern. In fact, the same memory may take two very different directions if it comes to us at two different times. In one of my earlier posts on my other blog I’d said I store memories in my head the way I store my earrings – in one big jumble – so that when I pick out one I have no clue which ones may come out dangling along with it.

Have you come across an unusual analogy during your reading?
Have you read any of Elif Shafak’s works?
Do share the quote if you have, and join me for #BookBytes.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on Tuesday, February 18th.

City Vibes #BookBytes 23

Hola folks! 

It’s #BookBytes time and today we’re talking cities, through book quotes, of course. The best way to get to know a city, other than actually living there, is through a book. If only geography was taught through fictional tales I’d have absolutely fallen in love with it. The sights, the sounds, the streets, the markets, pubs, bistros, coffee shops – an author has the power to bring it all alive for us making us live the city with his/her characters.

I recently finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s The City of Girls and it gives a wonderful feel of New York of the 1940s. I have travelled to Istanbul with Elif Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul), Afghanistan with Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and closer home I roamed the lanes of Malgudi with RK Narayan (Malgudi Days), the streets of Mumbai with Rohinton Mistry (A Fine Balance), and Calcutta with Dominique Lapierre (The City of Joy). What an absolute delight these books have been!

I’ve picked a quote from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a book I read long time ago that describes Bombay with accurate poignancy.

“Mumbai is the sweet, sweaty smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it’s the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It’s the smell of Gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. Its the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the island city, and the blood metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and the waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and love that produces courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches and mosques, and of hundred bazaar devoted exclusively to perfume, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. That smell, above all things – is that what welcomes me and tells me that I have come home.

Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

Have you read a book that brought alive a city for you? A contemporary read?

If you had to describe your city in a word, or a sentence maybe, what would it be?

As always, thoughts from fellow Bibliophiles brighten my day. I’d love to hear from you.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on Tuesday, February 4th.

Let us make glorious amazing mistakes this year #BookBytes 22

Hola folks. Happy happy new year to all of you. I know I know I’ve been lax in sharing my bookish plans for the year. Year end celebrations left me feeling listless and unable to write. But as always, #BookBytes pushed me on and here I am.

Today I’m not sharing a byte from a book. It being New Year and all, I picked up a few lines that I found very inspiring from Neil Gaiman’s blog.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” 

– Neil Gaiman, on his blog

Isn’t this just the bravest thought? The perfect inspiration? No matter what your field of work is, these lines empower you to be better, dream bigger, without fear of failure. Gaiman wrote these lines as a New Year thought, way back in 2011 but they’ll always be relevant.

Here’s wishing you a happy and productive 2020.

Oh and stay tuned as I shall be sharing my reading plans for 2020 soonest.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition of BookBytes goes live on Tuesday, January 21.

Who Should be Buddha? #BookBytes 21

I’d read and loved Liberation of Sita by Volga so it was with high expectations that I picked up Yashodhara by the same author. Here’s a quote from the book that made me think:

I can’t become a path finder though I have the desire to become one. So, I must make the path of the pathfinder more comfortable for him to tread upon. That shall be my aim and my life’s noblest ambition.

Volga, Yashodhara

I get Yashodhara’s point of view here. It’s an unselfish perspective, where she’s thinking what’s best for the world, rather than of her own personal journey and that is definitely appreciable.

Yashodhara and Siddharth were a perfect match – two souls who thought the same thoughts, felt the same emotions. If anything, Yashodhara was the more evolved of the two (as depicted in the book). And yet she gives up her desire to be the ‘pathfinder’ because she realises that, being a woman, she wouldn’t be able to impact the world as Siddharth would and a valuable message would be lost to the world. And so she decides to take a backseat, letting Siddharth go, allowing him to become The Buddha, while she remains a ‘facilitator’. It’s only a long long time later that she is able to complete her journey.

There are many things about the Yashodhara-Siddharth story that have troubled me ever since I was a child. Finding out that Yshodhara was just as much a thinker as Siddharth only made it worse.

Perhaps, what she did was the right thing to do, specially in the context of the times she lived in.

What’s sad though, is that even today, a lot of women are content to play supporting roles rather than take centre stage. The tired old saying ‘Behind every man…’ gets to me sometimes. It’s as if the woman is given a consolation prize so she stops fighting for the Gold. Perhaps I am being harsh here and I do get that it isn’t always intentional however one does need to rethink this whole facilitator role that women are permanently cast in.

One needs to remember that sometimes they shoulder roles left to them unwillingly, protesting all along, at other times they step back and don’t push themselves enough to take centre stage and sometimes they actually delight in the sacrifice, in giving up their dreams for the men in their lives thanks to years and years of conditioning.

That’s just sad. The world would be a better place if people took up roles best suited to each one, irrespective of gender.

Perhaps then Yashodhara would have been the Buddha.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

BookBytes will be on a break now till we usher in the new year. See you on the first Tuesday of 2020, that’s January 7.

What’s your God like? #BookBytes 20

Welcome dear friends to another edition of BookBytes.

Recently, the son received an abridged version of Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster as a return gift at one of his friend’s birthdays. One glance at the book and he rejected it outright. Children can be surprisingly, annoyingly choosy about their reads. Besides, no self-respecting 13-year-old Rick Riordan fan would be interested in a book about a teenage orphan girl. I, on the other hand, was eager to read it. This one’s a classic I’d missed out on. I loved the illustrated version and found it quite perfect for my daughter, so it turned out to be a win-win situation.

Have you noticed how some books for children and young adults have immense wisdom within their pages? I’ve picked one such passage from Daddy Long Legs, though it’s from the original unabridged version. Take a read:

I find that it isn’t safe to discuss religion with the Semples. Their God (whom they have inherited intact from their remote puritan ancestors) is a narrow, irrational, unjust, mean revengeful, bigoted Person. Thank heaven I don’t inherit God from anybody! I am free to make mine up as I wish Him. He’s kind and sympathetic and imaginative and forgiving and understanding – and he has a sense of humour.

Jean Webster, Daddy Long Legs

I know you’ll agree with Jerusha Abbot – the young heroine of Daddy Long Legs. She’s an orphan and so has no parents to hand her down a preconceived idea of God. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each of us was free to make up our own God like Jerusha? I quite like the one she conjured up. A God who wouldn’t need sacrifices and fasting and complicated rituals to be happy, who wouldn’t punish us each time we forgot to light a diya or mispronounced a mantra. Oh and a God with a sense of humour sounds just perfect.

Perhaps we’d then turn from god-fearing people to god-loving ones.

What’s the one quality you’d like in your God?

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition is scheduled for December 3rd. Do join in.

Perspective #BookBytes 19

Hello hello everyone. It’s been a crazy two weeks. Festival times are sheer madness what with the children being home for a break. Plus I am in the middle of editing a novel which took up every free moment of my time. All of that translated into a forced blogging break. However I wouldn’t miss an edition of #BookBytes since I do so enjoy doing it.

Here I am then, with a quote I loved from a book I loved too – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I’d heard a lot about the author and I was eager to read her. The first book I picked up by sheer chance turned out to be Between the Lines, one she co-wrote with her daughter. I just wasn’t impressed – it was too much of a tween thing.

And then I chanced upon My Sister’s Keeper and that’s when I realised why people rave about Jodi Picoult. If you haven’t read it, I’d say give it a shot.

Here’s a quote I loved:

“Life sometimes gets so bogged down in the details, you forget you are living it. There is always another appointment to be met, another bill to pay, another symptom presenting, another uneventful day to be notched onto the wooden wall. We have synchronized our watches, studied our calendars, existed in minutes, and completely forgotten to step back and see what we’ve accomplished.” 

– Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

I loved the quote because it is so much a reflection of how most of us lead our lives these days. Of course the context in the book was more serious but the thought is universal. It certainly applies to me. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in the nitty-gritties of life, too bogged down by the daily struggles to revel in the happiness of what I’ve already achieved.
It’s good to step back and look at things sometimes, to count one’s achievements, to bask in one’s success however small – whether it is always being able to meet deadlines at work or keep a blog up and running, or even running a home smoothly – God knows that needs such consistent effort.

So Stop.
For one small moment.
Think of something you accomplished .
And feel good about it.

Do share with me what it was that made you feel good recently, something that you forgot to congratulate yourself for.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition is scheduled for November 19th. Do join in.