A Book A Week Challenge- Week 8

‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry might have been shortlisted for Man Booker Prize in 1996 and won Giller Prize, but not many ‘Reading Lists’ included in their ‘Best Readings’ which is such a shame.

This book was not on the initial list of books that I wanted to read this year. Thanks to ‘Independent’, if not for their recommendation, I would have missed an excellent read with such memorable characters.

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Book #: 8

Book: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Pages: 614

The description of the book says ‘set in the backdrop of The Emergency’ which was the prime reason for me to select this book. Even though the book doesn’t extensively focus on the direct events evolved during that specific period, it compensates or even more overwhelms you with a brilliant story.

The book narrates the lives of four key characters who can technically be pointed on four different quarters a graph plotted on age and affluence. As the story evolves, all of them reach a level plane and extends into the third dimension of Hope.

The story is a lot about despair and just when you thought, the world could only get better, it worsens even further for the lead characters. You empathize for each character equally.

Two essential features of this book are: most memorable characters forced into circumstances you witness in your daily life.

Key characters: Dina Dalal, Maneck Kohlah, Ishvar Darji and Om Prakash

But, each and every character comes with a backstory to ridicule the reader’s tendency to be judgmental.

Some of the characters worth mentioning: Avinash, Ashraf Chacha, Beggar Master, Dhunki, Narayan, Nusswan, Rustom, Thakur Dharmasi, Rajaram, Shankar, Ibrahim, Segeant Kesar and other who might actually meet at the corner of your street. And then there is ‘The Prime Minister’ and her Son.

The events stick with you too: The Emergency, The Evacuation and Beautification of Slums, The Family Planning Camps, The Irrigation Project workers and then The Untouchability.

The most relevant event even for the present day:  slum people moved in buses for political meetings.

At the end of the day, ‘TIME’ is what changes everything and might not be simply categorized into being Good or Bad but as described in the book:

“Time is the twine to tie our lives into parcels of years and months. or a  rubber band stretched to suit our fancy. Time can be a pretty ribbon in a little girl’s hair. Or the lines in your face, stealing your youthful colour and your hair. But in the end, time is a noose around the neck, strangling slowly.”

Recommended: MUST READ.

 

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A Book A Week Challenge- Week 7

I was introduced to the books of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s writing during my college. Before I started reading any of his books – Random effects or Unexplained component of anything was just a me secluded component of Mathematics. It was included in all the equations but was never investigated further. Taleb can be identified as someone who brought randomness into mainstream reading.

But, in real life, as humans, there is always this pursuit to understand and even more control or at least minimize the existence of randomness (the hubris extended sometimes to the extent of deriving the weight of randomness).

Are we 100% sure of something to happen?

Nah.

May be 99.9% at the best. (left to random events)

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The book I read this week was: Antifragile: Things that gain from Disorder

Pages: 501

‘Antifragile’ is the term coined by the author himself to explain the phenomenon of gaining strength (being counter fragile) under strenuous effects. In the world that is now exposed to numerous ‘Black Swans’ (as extensively written in ‘There Black Swan’), is there a way we can identify them?

What do we do even if we identify them?

We establish systems that not just gets shattered away due to these unforeseen Black Swan events but rather make gains out of them.

It is kind of sequel to ‘The Black Swan’ and honestly, it was not as impressive as its prequel. I was surprised with the number of pages that were spent in explaining why a separate term hadd to be coined to explain ‘Antifragility’. Anyone who picked up any of Taleb’s book before would find it a bit: repetitive, self contradictory and sometimes counter intuitive.

However, like all his books before, the phrases and example scenarios keeps you engaged all through and language is easy as you can swift through the pages real quick.

Overall, Not the best  of Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

A Book A Week Challenge- Week 6

2014 Man Booker Prize winner ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ was a story of ambition and even more was a story of Hope. Primarily set in the backdrop of Australians suffering in Japanese POWs back in 1960s when forced to work on The Line to build what later called ‘Death Railway’, the novel expands its scope throughout the lifetime of Dorrigo Evans.

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Book #: 6

Title: The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Pages: 448

The title is derived from a Japanese classic novel by Basho

The protagonist goes back and forth on quoting ‘Ulysses’ and doesn’t shy off naming it the book he would have read a millionth time.

The novel was inspired by the author’s father own life reminiscences.

Since the book moves back and forth in time, it takes sometime for the reader to actively follow which phase of the life was being narrated. Once you get into the mood of the story and get through a section or two, it turns to be a simple reading. You would appreciate the incredible skill of author to narrate different time frames with such an ease.

If you are an aspiring writer, pick the fundamentals from this book.

Split into 5 sections separated by a poem sets the mood of upcoming section brilliantly.

The protagonist had to fight an intense conflict within himself than the external physical strain that he or his countrymen encounter- his acts and thoughts often contradict.

He is a flawed one, who adulterates women and at the same time he is a hero for all those people who look up to him.

The closing chapters of the book narrates a poem that summarizes the life of Dorrigo but you can’t escape yourself from associating it with yours own.

My Purpose holds:

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars until I die

Life is: 

Little remains; but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

And this grey spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought

It makes you think of your purpose and much more about the minimal appreciation we have towards our own existence. This book totally deserved the appreciation it needed.

448 pages and never put down. I would love to go back and read one more time, probably at some point later, only to appreciate the writing.

Why at the beginning of things is there always light? – Hope

Why at the end of things is there always light? – Joy

A Book A Week Challenge – Week 5

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Book #: 5

Title: The Lowland

Pages: 340

Week 5 read was a novel by Jumpa Lahiri shortlisted for Man Booker 2013 . ‘The Lowland’ had everything that could be included in a set up based out of Bengal. It includes naxalism, politics, uprising, poverty, aspiration and self reinvention.

‘The Lowland takes’ you through lifetime of two brothers and a woman who both of them marry. Jumpa Lahiri makes a conscious effort to not make this a story about the economic or political conditions of India or America but keeps focused only on the emotions that the three key characters experience through their lifetime.

For someone expecting to have a happy reading, this might be the ideal book to pick. One consistent theme the book skips through is joy. Not even, when Udayan and Gauri gets married, Not even when Subhash gets admission to a college in America, Not even when they have a daughter.

The narration switches back and forth in time. Every section starts from the point of view of a key character- two brothers, Gauri, Bela and the parents. Come the second chapter (subsection), the view zooms out, which doesn’t make for a great convincing reading.

Overall, there were very few moments in the book where you really feel excited about. If you haven’t read anything that deals with high emotions set up in Indian setup, you can give it a try. (Not rightly comparable but having read ‘Village by the sea’ by Anita Desai- I would have liked a bit more emotional consistency)