Joy

As a child, I was a compulsive reader. I would read anything that I could get my hands on. I remember reading Pinki, Billu, Chacha Chaudhary, Tinkle, Champak etc. I also remember reading obscure detective novels and many other such books. Reading was pure joy.

When I entered college though, I read because I wanted to stand out. Being a victim of bullying in my school days, I had this desire to impress people around me, so that they would accept me. I read more and more so I that I became the most well-read person in my college.The joy of reading was still there but it certainly took a backseat. The admiration that I saw in my classmates’ eyes made me want to read more. Reading became a race.
As I navigate slowly in the fast-paced professional world, I get less time to read but when I do read, my focus is more on being productive in my profession. I stopped enjoying detective stories because my mind told me that I should rather invest my time reading non-fiction. The joy of reading is still there but it is sitting in the backseat, waiting for me to become aware of it. Reading has become a means to an end.
As children, we follow our intuition. We are naturally drawn to activities that give us joy. But as we grow up, we are told that pursuing things that give us joy is a waste of time. Ironically, we work hard and earn a living so that after we retire, we can do things that give us joy. Perhaps, life doesn’t work that way. Technically speaking, even sleep is a waste of time (because we are doing nothing) but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it! In the same way, doing things that give us joy is essential. Not everything in life has to be a race or numbers or productivity. There has to be a place for things that we do, just because we enjoy them.  #LessonsLearned #Reading #Books #Joy
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Fiction, non-fiction, Choices, etc

There was a time when I wanted to read all the “classics” (fiction) before I die. I also wanted to watch a lot of acclaimed movies. Of course, I enjoy reading and watching movies, but there was also FOMO. This FOMO drove me to read some classics and watch some highly acclaimed movies. I also tried to write fiction and failed miserably.

In recent times though, I have realized that I love non-fiction and that it gives me immense joy. Of course, there are always some fiction books and acclaimed movies that I read and watch every now and then, but I think I know what I like (atleast for the time being).
It breaks my heart to think that I might never read Game Of Thrones or complete the Harry Potter series. I might not belong to the amazing worlds that science fiction writers create. I might miss out on great cinema. I might not root for any fictional character. I might not cry for or laugh with a fictional character. My FOMO is quite high but somewhere you have to accept yourself. We are here for a limited amount of time and trying to do something that you don’t fully enjoy takes away precious moments from us. If you are like me, you might feel ecstatic after reading an obscure and ridiculous book about the way this universe works. If you are like me, you might miss out on reading Nobel Prize winning authors. But life is all about making choices. We all are different and we simply don’t have the time to DO EVERYTHING in life.

Nice reads on Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited sucks most of the time. However, with a little patience, you can find some gems. Here are some interesting books that you can read for free:

1. As If Women Matter by Gloria Steinem
2. The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans (click)
3. Superhuman by Habit by Tynan
4. Em And The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto (click)
5.  I Am Vidya by Living Smiling Vidya (click)
6. MS Subbulakshmi: The Definitive Biography by T.J.S George (I have not read this)

Buddha by Osamu Tezuka

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Photo: Amazon

‘Buddha’ is a Manga (a form of Japanese comic book and graphic novel) which mixes factual accounts of Gautama Buddha’s life with Osamu Tezuka’s own interpretation to create a masterpiece. A monk’s life is considered to be boring but Tezuka employs humor and wit to make Buddha’s life colorful. He has a unique way of keeping things simple without making the teachings simplistic.

Buddhism, despite its flaws, is different from other religions. Instead of obsessing about the origins of life and the existence of God, it focuses on practical matters like the way to reduce suffering. Tezuka doesn’t delve much into the Buddhist philosophy but he manages to create a sense of reverence towards The Buddha. I personally feel more connected to the universe after reading this wonderful series.

Why Loiter by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade

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Photo: Amazon

In ‘Why Loiter’, the authors make a strong case for aimless wandering on the city streets. While the focus is on Mumbai, the insights are universal.

As women, we are taught that loitering is not a feminine thing. Women in public spaces are expected to demonstrate a purpose (waiting for a friend, getting back from work etc). By loitering, women challenge the stereotypes and the label of a ‘good girl’. However, it’s not easy for women to loiter because the public spaces are designed in a way that discourages women from going out.
The authors have written the book with an aim of including all kinds of women. Differently-abled women, wealthy women, lesbians and women from the lower economic class find their place in the research on public spaces. Phade, Khan and Ranade don’t just highlight the problems; they have some innovative solutions to combat the problem of women’s safety in public spaces. The only issue with the book is that the authors often end up saying the same thing again and again.
If you are shaken after reading about what’s happening to women in this country, then this book will help you understand the root of the problem.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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Photo: Goodreads

Rupi Kaur became a social media sensation because of her poetry and her Instagram photos (one of which was the famous period stain picture which was earlier taken down by Instagram). ‘Milk and Honey’ is a collection of her poems. Some of them have illustrations too. Kaur’s poems on body hair, self-love, feminism and abuse tugged at my heartstrings. It’s great to see a young woman using a modern tool like social media to bring the old world charm of poetry.

I always believe that poetry is one of the hardest art forms because one doesn’t have the space to fake it. If you are writing about heartbreak and you haven’t really experienced it deeply, then the readers will know. Kaur’s writing is beautiful because it is coming straight from her heart. Barring a few poems, most of her work is poignant. If you are planning to read her poetry, I would urge you to not judge it through objective tools of evaluation. Her work has to be seen in a larger context. Putting up an Instagram picture or sharing your poem on Facebook is not revolutionary but sometimes, it has the power to make someone feel less alone.

Reading, television and mental health

There is a tendency among people suffering from depression/other mental health issues to watch a lot of television (or web shows). While some TV/Web shows are enlightening and inspiring, television as a medium might not be the best choice for those who have mental health issues. When we watch a film, we are not actively involved in the creation process. Since it’s a visual medium, the filmmaker has already made choices: he/she decides what you will watch on screen. Reading, on the other hand, requires us to imagine. The author has described the characters but there is a room for our own creativity. This process of imagining makes us feel as if we are in control…which is (often) the last thing we feel when we are depressed. The process of imagining is like an exercise for the brain…it’s taxing but in the end, there is a sense of accomplishment.

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna

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Photo: Amazon

 

As adolescents, my brother and I (like many other Indians) used to laugh at Twinkle Khanna’s mediocre acting skills. There was a pleasure in mocking her: she is privileged. She is the daughter of one of the most popular actors in Bollywood and her failure was an assurance that the universe didn’t give too much power to a handful of people. Who would have thought that someday, Mrs.Funnybones would completely surprise all of us with her wittiness and wisdom! I’m so glad that people like me have been proven wrong. We all applaud men and women who rise from poverty and make it big in their respective fields. But we need to also appreciate those who carry the burden of legacy. To rise above your surname and carve your own identity is a tough job.

‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’ is not a masterpiece but if you read Twinkle’s columns you will be pleasantly surprised by Twinkle, the fiction writer. She highlights gender issues with her trademark wit and humor. While I loved reading all the stories, I was really inspired by the fictional story based on the real-life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented machines to produce low-cost sanitary napkins. Another area where Twinkle shines as a writer is the research: the meticulous details about the places and people’s quirks enrich her stories. And it is refreshing to see a Mumbaikar setting her stories in different regions of India.
I am definitely looking forward to reading more fiction from Twinkle and I hope that she keeps proving her haters wrong.

The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans

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Photo: Amazon

Verbal abuse is not taken as seriously as physical abuse even though it has the potential to permanently change the way we look at ourselves, our loved ones and the society. In this book, Patricia Evans takes up the herculean task of understanding and explaining an invisible form of abuse and challenges us to respect ourselves. So much of the communication that goes on around us is verbally abusive. Body-shaming, misogyny, classism, and racism disguised under jokes are “normal” things today but a “casual” comment has the power to damage a youngster’s self-esteem. Since physical abuse is punishable in a lot of countries, many have resorted to other forms of abuse and verbal abuse is a refuge for many helpless men and women who turn their most intimate relationships into a one-upmanship.

Unlike many self-help authors, Patricia doesn’t sell illusions to the victims of abuse. A victim of abuse didn’t “attract” and doesn’t deserve an abusive partner. A victim of abuse cannot magically change his/her partner…most of the times, the abuser doesn’t even admit that he/she is abusive. You cannot always change the other person by giving love. Some people are beyond emotions and logic and sometimes, the only thing you can do is protect yourself. Love is beyond boundaries but in an abusive relationship, you need to create boundaries. However, Patricia also gives you hope: self-love may compel you to cut some people off but it can also be a beginning of a healthy, peaceful and drama-free life.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

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Photo: Free Audiobook Guide

Like most people, I had a perception that this book is about the power of effort and that putting in 10,000 hours of practice would make one a legend in a particular field. It’s unfortunate that in many book reviews and synopsis, people have reduced this book to “10,000 hours” when Malcolm Gladwell clearly states that success is often a result of being born at the “right time”, getting the “right opportunities” and of course, effort. It’s really sad that many people will stay away from this book because of this perception and also because it’s a ‘bestseller’. If you are one of those people then I urge you to look beyond these things because you will miss out on some serious insights from this riveting book.

What makes Malcolm Gladwell different from other ‘best-selling’ authors is the depth of his research and the jaw-dropping observations made from mundane and dull data. When we talk about success, we either completely dismiss it as ‘luck’ or attribute it to ‘hard work’ and say that those who didn’t succeed didn’t work hard enough. In a way, this makes things easier because we don’t have to understand the nuances. But Gladwell says that success is much more complex. He explains that Bill Gates succeeded because he had an *opportunity* to practice programming for more than 10,000 hours and also because he was born in 1955! Because he was born in 1955, he had just the right amount of time to practice before the personal computer revolution. In another example of a plane crash, Gladwell observes that the first officer knew that they were in danger but he didn’t communicate this urgency with assertiveness to the captain and the air controller because the culture he comes from teaches men and women to ‘obey’ their elders and be always polite to them. A person’s ethnicity is the last thing that we think about while analyzing a plane crash!
Just like ‘Blink’, ‘Outliers’ has nothing new to offer in terms of the conclusion. Many thinkers have emphasized on the role of luck but what makes Gladwell different is “how” he gets to the conclusion. Instead of boring the readers with research, he creates a symphony of facts, insights, and stories. Gladwell is truly a master of selling ideas.