Monday, 2 January 2017

Favorite books of 2016



2016 had been an exceptionally good year for books. I discovered (largely thanks to the Popsugar Reading Challenge) some amazing titles that left me reeling for weeks. I’ve compiled in a list of 9 my favorite books of 2016.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse


I would tout this title as the “books to read before you die”.  Few books change the way one sees the world, few books are powerful enough to turn your head upside down and throw you down a unique spiritual road. Siddhartha is one of those.  It is a seminal piece of work that will redefine wisdom as something that cannot be handed down by another but which needs to be discovered and experienced by oneself.


The Complete Maus (Maus #1-2) by Art Spiegelman


I began the book with only the knowledge that it was a Holocaust story but what I read went beyond that. It was a story within a story. The story of a strained father-son relationship running tandem with the father's recollection of his experience during the Holocaust. What sets it apart for me if the depiction of the Jews as mice and the Nazi as cats and the Poles as pigs. Somehow this makes it more powerful and believable. Maus is a book about relations, memories of the past, how those memories make you and affect you, it is a book of love, the will to live and keep fighting. It is a book bound to stay with you. This was one hell of a book to initiate me into graphic novels.

P.S. In 1992 it became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

"That seemed to be the nature of boons given to women - they were handed to us like presents we had not quite wanted."

The retelling of the epic tale of Mahabaratha from the point of view of Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandavas. It is less about the Kurukshetra War and more of the story of Panchali, a fiery woman with a wild heart, held back from the world by a male dominated society. She repeatedly questions the chauvinism and in her own means also tries to rise above it.
What is beautiful and sad about this narrative is the boundless love between Krishna and Panchali, the lack of the same acceptance from her own husbands. All my grandmother’s advice comes with a story and she always told me the story of Draupadi with the caution to never be hot headed, to not be arrogant and to think twice before you say anything. My grandmother liked to say, “if Draupadi only held back her words during the swayamvaram(a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age), the great war could have well been avoided.”  
The Palace of Illusions is an argument to my grandmother’s idea of Draupadi. It dwells into the heart of a woman and what motivates her actions.


Lord of Flies by William Golding

I had goosebumps reading this book. It is the story of a group of English school boys who are stranded on a uninhabited island after a plane crash and their slow transformation to savagery as the recklessness of freedom and the wildness of nature takes over them. This is not a story for the faint of heart for it dwells on dark issues.The human nature is inherently corrupt and all it needs is a spark to let loose its barbarisms. When I got to the last page, my heart of hammering against my chest.That is how terrifying this book is.
Similarly was Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad which is also an allegory for the deprivation of human existence.  It deals with race, death and colonization.
The last book I read in 2016 was Animal Farm by George Orwell which is a satire on the Soviet Communist system and gave me strong Lord of Flies vibes. 



The Trial by Franz Kafka

 “Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, The Trial has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers.”
 Kafka’s The Trial is an allegory of the world we live in. It is a dark comedy revolving around the complexity of the legal process and bureaucracy and the common man’s perception of what is lying within the folds of the same. Of his acceptance of the absurd because he does not understand it. This is a haunting book bound to leave you with numerous questions.






Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides


“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

Middlesex is a story of a hermaphrodite named Callie and her transformation from Callie to Cal. This book is a journey spanning over three generations of the Stephanides (Greek) family and how the incestuous behavior of his ancestors plant the genetic variation in Cal’s seed. The novel is epic in its details. The amount of research gone into it is immense for each sentence reveals a fact of not only the protagonist but also the general world. The book is a whopping 529 pages but at the end you will ask for more.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal and this book only reinforced the view. She is funny, insane, and absolutely unstoppable. She reminds me to never cease being myself even though it is not the best thing to be in certain situation. 












Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

As a piece of fiction I immensely enjoyed it, the world of Japanese culture and the traditions of a Geisha were extremely fascinating. What I really loved about the book  (I was hesitant to trust the depiction of the culture itself as it was written by an American)was the story of the Chiyo. The story of her struggles in the Geisha world, and how she rose to become one of the most famed persons in her trade. The writing is beautiful and lyrical and you are with Chiyo all the way, that is what made me love this book. 




Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
Sounds like a chick lit? Because it is. But I loved it. I loved the underlying themes, the language, the romance, the plot on the whole.  It will make you laugh, what better recipe than that and fine language for a good read?


List of Books of 2016


What book did you discover in 2016?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Harry.






Harry when my brother first got him home.
Things happen and we don’t always welcome it. We do not understand why something happened at some date, why things had to be changed and something had to disappear. We do not understand fate. We do not understand death. Because death is a change we wish didn’t happen.  Death of someone close is death of a piece of our soul. We have no protection against this lose. We have no way to fight it.
Harry, my little brother, my pet cat died a couple of days back. He had been missing for a few days and I couldn’t find him even after searching for him. I had kept my fingers crossed for his return. And then they found him, dead.

Maybe it was not really Harry that died, maybe it was a different similar looking cat and Harry was going to turn up the same day. That was what I told myself. Until I realized he wasn’t coming back and I mourned him.

I miss Harry. He was my little person, my little cat who went round and round my feet until I picked him up and scratched his ears or rubbed his tummy. He had the most beautiful eyes. So full of pure trust in his family. The first time he climbed up a place he didn’t know a way down, he cried until I came and got him to ground. When he went missing once before and fell down a ditch, he cried out when he heard my voice whistling for him. He trusted us to find him. And I couldn’t find him this time. I wish I could tell him how sorry I am, now much Sansa his sister misses him.
The last picture I took of him.
People tell him he is in a better place. I hope that is true. That he is in a world where there is lot of cat food and many rats to chase. And that there is someone to reprimand him when he brings home a dead rat yet tell him how proud they are of him for having caught one. He will remember me then and not forget he had us. That he has a family that loves him.
Harry was my very favorite, and with these words I honor his memory. I love you, little Harry. Thank you for your meows. They will forever echo in my world.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Books that changed me for better.



Fiction will take you and turn you on your head. It will leave you in tears, or with a content heart or gasping for another page. Fiction also stretches its fingers to the depths of your mind and heart and sows a seed of something new. A lesson. A thought. A feeling. Something that changes your perception of life. That something will make you, will guide you. Fiction will become your teacher or an inspirational story that motivates you. It will be your drive, you motto. Stories or writings that will change the way you look at life. This is top 5 of my top ten novels that has taken me in its words and changed me with its stories. 



The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
                                                                                                                                                                             



Ayn Rand single-handedly changed my perspective on life. Fountainhead showed me what it means to be a true man, a human being  who will not negotiate his principles because what are you when you forgo your principles? Atlas Shrugged liberated me on so many levels. It showed me it is okay to be selfish, rather selfish is the way to live. To remember that without the ‘I’ there is no self. For instance, the ‘I’ in ‘I love you’ is more important that the word love itself. To remember only I can grant myself true happiness. 

This is my favorite Ayn rand quote:
Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.”
How much I adore this book. The Little Prince will teach you to never forget the child in you, to never erase the creativity and imagination as you grown up. The book will stay with you, I promise. You will carry it in your heart as a secret weapon against the world’s ugly.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Ah, this book. When I got through the last page I had this urge to hold the book close, to not let anything I had discovered between those pages fade. It will connect to your spiritual side and will give it a makeover.
“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else ... Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

Particles, Jottings, Sparks: The Collected Brief Poems of Rabindranath Tagore

I love this man. Period. His are the only works that has brought tears to my eyes not because of how sad the story was but just how beautiful his words are. There is in him a stillness of nature, and my personal love for nature is augmented by Tagore’s lyrics.

“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of
Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.” 

Harry Potter by J K Rowling

Yes, you can argue that there are more amazing classics out there that should be in top five. Harry Potter has been such an integral part of my growing up that it refuses to make way for any book of any league out there. It has been a paramount source in molding my first principles of life. Simple lessons like how sometimes you need to make the harder choices or to accept your destiny and not back down even when death is facing you. 
  “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”


What books feature in your top five?


Note:Pictures do not belong to me(except the first one).

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Strong Female Characters in TV Series: The Love and Need.



(This post sits well in the light of Forbes's 2016 list of the World's Most Powerful Women.)

In a male dominated society, it is curious to note that the TV Series industry (which has a very large if not the largest audience) has many female dominated shows. Shows with women characters who are fascinating, who don’t let rules stop them, who shatter the glass ceilings with style and class. They steal the limelight and how well they deserve it! These are the characters I cannot get enough of, even amidst amazing shows like Sherlock and House, the female lead TV series have created a league of their own.

Why are these shows so great, why are writers obsessed with bad-ass women characters and the viewers drink them up like manna? Is it because it resonates with the feministic setup people are advocating? Or the wish the we really want to see these women exist in real life? The need for us to step up and create an image for ourselves as these characters have.

I love these shows because these are the type of women I want to be. To be so talented, confidant, brave and funny at the same hour. These women influence us, become role models of sorts; they have gumption and we want that too. Writers understand this (Shonda Rhimes, hats off to this woman) and they gift us with such amazing people we cannot get enough of. 

Olivia Pope from Scandal is in my top ten list of female lead characters I so wish I was like. “Aut inveniam viam aut faciam” or “I shall either find a way or make one” is her way to life and the law student in me idolizes that.  Ever since I’ve met this character I’ve taken a different outlook on happenings around me. She makes me think, ‘hmm, if it were me, how would I turn the situation around in my favor?’ 

Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey. I know this show is not centered on a single character but I think we agree she is the protagonist. There are many amazing women in Grey’s Anatomy, but the more I watch the show the more I realize how much Meredith has to teach me. It is easy to be a Christina Yang if you have the talent and drive, to be a Callie if you have the imagination. But to be Meredith Grey takes a lot. I love how ground she is about things, how in spite of all the darkness inside her she finds a way to decide what the right thing is. How one learns from their own mistakes is something I learned from Grey. 

I absolutely adore Agent Carter. In a chauvinistic society, Agent Carter kicks a lot of stereotypes and she does it with major style. She is a bad-ass through and through. She shows us to not let the world’s opinion matter when it comes to who you are and what and how you can do your job. You serve to be the best version of yourself. 
 
Kate Beckett you fall in love with easily. She is everything a girl wants to be. The thing you learn best from Kate is to be persistent and to trust your instincts. It takes a different kind of courage to challenge something you are 98% sure is going to get you killed. Sometimes obsession is motivation.

Annalise Keating is yet another female lead character who takes the heat head on and never backs down when cornered. As one of my friend put it, ‘strong female characters serve as a reminder that strength doesn’t necessarily mean physical strength. That a bad ass woman need not wield a sword or know martial arts. Annalise Keating especially kindles the fire in law students. Use your senses and your resources. 


I know I’m leaving behind many amazing female characters. Mindy Lahiri in the Mindy Project, Alex Parish from Quantico, Piper Chapman in Orange is the New Black, and so many more. What all these characters resonate is the fact of how capable women can be if they had the courage to find themselves. These female leads are perfect yet flawed, maybe that is why we relate so much. We feel them. We hear them. We want to be them. 

We grew up watching shows were men did all the hard work. Women in supporting roles depended on these men. It doesn’t work that way anymore. It is refreshing and a hell lotta encouraging seeing strong, independent women characters taking the limelight.  



Do you have a favorite female TV Series character? 



PS. Images do not belong to me.
PSS. Thank you to my three amazing friends Abhilasha, Rachel  and Sonali for their inputs.



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