Saturday, 21 March 2020

Break the Chain

Grass is always greener on the other side. With the corona pandemic, this old saying resonates truthful as ever. 

Kids always wanted to play on the mobile phone or watch cartoons in the house. Now they are restless because they want to go out and play! 

Students always plan different ways to bunk classes and examinations. Today when it has become mandatory, they wish they could just go back to the familiarity of the classrooms.

People having white-collar jobs relentlessly complain about the traffic jams, never ending commute hours to office, sedentary nature of work and most importantly, endlessly discuss that work life balance is a myth. Today, they are required to work from home. But they sit and miss the daily habit of showing up at the office.

Even the most laziest of people want to hit the gym or at least go out for a walk. People who never eat out want to go to restaurants. Suddenly, couch potatoes find binge watching boring. Families are uncomfortable to be sealed together within the limits of one's home. 

We are enwrapped by our own irony!

I am sure that anyone who reads this has some gadget or other and a good internet connection. This only means we are one of the few blessed souls who could stay back at home and work; our income unchanged (alright, annual hike might be a problem. Let's deal with that later). 

Why don't we sit back, let our hair down and just be thankful. There are so many people who are homeless and whose daily income is visibly affected. 

As the 'educated' citizens of this world, the only way we could contribute towards curtailing this pandemic is by staying at home. Let's just do that. Let's just binge watch, make good food and eat, have face to face interaction with our families, make phone calls to our friends, clean the house, have a long shower, read a book...

The opportunities available to productively kill the time are many... Let's not crib as we always do... Let's not complain as we anyway do... Let's just appreciate what we have... Let's be grateful... Let's break the chain... LET'S JUST STAY AT HOME

Monday, 2 March 2020

Evolution of my Relationship with Books

I still remember those days when my mother would relentlessly persuade me to read books. I was just six or seven years old then. She even bought me children’s version of Panchathantra and the Vikramaditya and the Vedhal. But I refused to read.

As a child, I was never able to visualise the written words. Maybe I lacked imagination, or I was just lazy. I am not sure. However, I always enjoyed the stories that my mother used to narrate while feeding me or during random occasions. Those were mostly of Lord Krishna and his mischievous endeavours. I loved them all. They were quirky and I was able to relate to them. If I couldn’t, I ensured that I managed to follow his footprints and replicate those scenarios myself. Once I ended up stealing the butter from the refrigerator.

As years passed, my interest to read never intensified. My parents didn’t give up either. They always encouraged me to read by gifting some book or the other. I still remember getting Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I was thirteen. I used to carry it everywhere because it had a pink cover! But beyond that I didn’t care. I didn’t understand what a ‘cloak’ or ‘wand’ meant. My English and its grammar were always good, but my vocabulary was limited. And, I never cared enough to learn more.

Finally, when I was fifteen, I realised that I am just being dumb. I didn’t know the worlds of Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys. I certainly didn’t know what Mills & Boons offered. I just had no idea! That’s when I enrolled in a nearby library. And one of the first books I read was David Copperfield. And my relationship thus began. Though I was a little too old for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, I read them. I read Classics and fictions as well. Dictionary became my handbag essential. I completed all the books of Sydney Sheldon and had special liking for Danielle Steel. I was enthralled by the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi. I didn’t know which book was good or which one was a bestseller. Those were the days when the mobile phones were not smart enough and dial up internet connection not accessible for all. So, I read - sometimes judging by the book cover or by the book blurb. Soon, I realised that I am a Harry Potter fan and eagerly waited for the new releases since then.

Chetan Bagat’s Five Point Someone introduced me to simple English and relatable stories. I didn’t require a dictionary anymore. So, I continued to read Anuja Chauhan, Ravinder Singh, Preeti Shenoy and so on. Later, when I attended a professional training after I completed my Chartered Accountant final examination, I was introduced to the world of non-fiction. Soon, Who Moved my Cheese, Six Thinking Hats and so on became my favourites too.
It was around this time, I started blogging. And I managed to read hundreds of books through the Book Review programs. While some were good, most of them were horrible. I enjoyed reading the first books of Ashwin Sanghi, Devdutt Patnaik, Ravi Subramaniam and others who later became celebrated authors. After three to four years of book reviews, I decided to stop! I realised that I am not getting enough time to read the books that I enjoy.

Then, one day, I bought Amazon Kindle – it paved way to books that I would never have imagined to read or complete otherwise. The Fountainhead, Perfume, To Kill a Mockingbird and what not. I was happier to own more e-Books because I had some space constraints too.

As years passed, I happily switched between a physical book and e-book. That’s when I came across Audibles by Amazon. But I wasn’t very keen to use it. My long commute to and from office was usually spent by listening to almost same set of songs in my playlist. I was quite happy with my routine. But, as months passed, I was tired of those songs. That’s when I decided to experiment with Audible. Honestly, when I think about it, that wasn’t the case. I was reading this book – Permanent Record - borrowed from a friend. I had to give it back to him; but I was around halfway through. It was an expensive book and I had already read half. So, I didn’t feel like buying a copy. When I learnt that having an Amazon Prime subscription would give me three months free trial to use the Audible, I shamelessly signed up for it. This opened doors towards an unknown bliss. Little did I know that I was signing up for a lifestyle change! This was in November and I have already experimented with several genres ranging from self-help books to autobiographies to non-fictions. I also heard a couple of fictions which didn’t work too well for me, given the fact that there were too many characters and dialogs which was difficult to follow. Other than that, I am happy!

I am proud to reiterate that substance matters over the form. If the objective is to read as much as books as possible across genres, one should not shy away from trying various options. Of course, the smell of book is irreplaceable. But then there are other unavoidable constraints too – in my case space and monetary ones. Ah! Time also – what a limited resource it is.

In short, what matters is reading. Keep reading regardless of the genres, language (if possible) and most importantly format.

Happy reading!!!

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Mandala Kolam

After what feels like ages…

Here I am back with the first kolam of the decade…
A Mandala inspired kolam…
Let me know how you liked it!

PS: Because many people asked me what a Kolam is…
Kolam refers to intricate patterns drawn both free handedly and by joining dots. These can be widely seen in the Southern part of India. Women draw this early morning, preferably before Sunrise after cleaning the courtyard. Earlier rice powder was used – it was a means to feed ants and small insects. However, these days, stone powder and even chalk is used. If such powders are used, it is called Pudi Kolam. Sometimes, brick powder will be used as outline on auspicious days, Tuesdays and Fridays. If rice powder is mixed in water and similar patterns are drawn, it is called Maavu/Maa Kolam. In West Bengal, it is called Alpona. In North India, people used rice/stone powders for the outline and fill the patterns with colors. This is called Rangoli.

It is believed that Kolam brings prosperity. It is drawn for almost all the auspicious occasions like marriages and festivals. When someone dies in the household, the family don’t draw any kolam for a year.  

Children in small towns learn the art of making kolam at a very young age. In fact, a girl who knows to draw impeccable and intricate kolam is a pride for the entire family and the village she stays. However, owing to modernization, city life and apartment culture, this art is soon dying.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Details of the Book
No. of Pages   : 464 Pages
ISBN               : ISBN-10: 0062316095 and ISBN-13: 978-0062316097
Language         : English

From the book blurb
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behavior from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future.

Yuval Noah Harari was born in Haifa, Israel, to Lebanese parents in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?

What I think

Reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind has been one of the most enriching experiences ever. I am not sure if I could generically classify it as a non-fiction or specifically say that it is a blend of history and evolution of human beings. It beautifully captures who we used to be to who we are today and what we may become in future. The facts such as the accidental invention of fire, our own cognitive superiority among other living beings,  idea of religion and the unifying as well as discriminating facts such as God, gender, wealth and so on as well as the impact of agricultural, industrial and scientific revolutions are also put forth in detail.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is special because of the facts with which it is backed. Also, the unique and compelling writing is another reason. Not to mention, the author’s expertise through years of research is another exciting reason.

As I write this blog, I am not particularly sure how I could review this book. This is not ordinary. This is one of its types – best in class. When the author blatantly dismisses the existence of God or the afterlife and at the same time provides scientific as well as psychological reasons, we are made to think. After all, we sapiens are blessed with the ability to rationally and objectively evaluate almost everything. The reason for gender discrimination and the extensive practice of patriarchy is another overarching truth which is presented with facts. It also caters into how money single handedly transformed our today and how consumerism could shape our future. It extensively also discusses the ideologies of various religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. At the same time, it also confirms that man is a social animal whose happiness is not only derived from a healthy intersection of ones expectations VS reality but also from his/her social interactions and bonds.

I could go on writing hundreds of thousands of essays on what I actually learnt new or understood better from this book. But, that’s not the point. What really matters is when more of us pick this little book of great information and understand our own evolution.

Pick this one. You will cherish and celebrate the way I do


Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy New Year - 2020

Yet another new year it is... 
Bringing lots of hopes and promises... 
Letting us amend the wrongs and continue the good. 

Most of us make so many resolutions, or do we? By the year end, most of them would be forgotten and reappear in the next year's list. So this time, i decided to learn from my past experiences and make no resolutions. Well, you could say that making no resolutions is my only resolution for this year. I feel that we could commit ourselves to improvements and acceptance; resolutions - not really!

I specifically like new years’ also because of the vacations with which it emerges. It is inevitable to not start with a positive note, reminiscing all the good and not so good things that happened. Did you notice? I didn't say bad things; instead i said 'not-so-good things'. This is what vacations do to you. It flips you and makes you a positive person. Although, i am not a believer of positivity and optimism anymore. I used to be the most optimistic person people knew. But today, i choose being rational over optimism. It’s alright to feel not okay and realize that some things would never happen the way you imagined. What's not okay is when you think some things would never happen at all. I hope the difference is clear.

Anyway... Let's just cheer up... 
Brace ourselves for another 366 (this time) days of acceptance. 
Meanwhile, remember to take one day at a time and live each moment as if that's all you have. 

See you around...
Happy New year!!!

- Locomente