Gollapudi Maruti Rao “Saayankalamaindi” (It’s Evening Time)

Gollapudi Maruti Rao renowned for his association with Telugu film industry but made significant contributions towards Telugu literature and theater. His “Saayankalamaindi” first appeared as a weekly serial in Andhra Jyothy and later released as a novel.

“Saayankalamaindi” which translates to “It’s evening time” is a metaphorical reference to the phase of a human being. Per Hindu tradition, even human had to experience four stages in his life: Brahmacharya (Student/Bachelor), Grihastha (Householder), Vanaprastha (Retired) and Sannyasa (Renunciation). “Saayankalamaindi” is a reference to the ‘Vanaprastha’ phase of an orthodox Hindu Brahmin ‘Subhadracharyulu’.

The book is a social commentary set in the olden days where the foreign education is still a distant reality. That is the phase where western influences started to penetrate Indian households. The era where still caste based separatism was considered not only as a normalcy but as the way that the society operated.

Gollapudi Maruti Rao introduces many characters in this novel that are distinguished either by their caste, physical appearance, education, wealth or profession. Each character is written with a peculiarity that not only reflected their behavior but is also as representative of the community that has the traits associated with the system personified.

Central to this story is a family – Subhadaracharylu who is an orthodox religious Brahmin whose definition of activity is praying to the deity ‘Kunthi Madhava Swamy”, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. He is accompanied by his wife ‘Varadamma’, who knows no world other than her husband and Lord Vishnu. They are blessed with two children – ‘China Tirumalacharyulu’ (Tirumala) and ‘Andaallu”. As the years pass by, Tirumala leaves the country to work for General Electric and Andaallu is banished from the house for loving and marrying a person from the lower caste. The years pass by and a day comes when Subhadracharylu passes away almost two years after the death of his wife Varadamma.

The book treats you through some of the brilliant characters you might have read in the Indian literature – a rich kshatriya who is a dear friend to Acharyulu, a trickster who identifies the genius in Tirumula, an illicit wife, and her daughter dedicated their lives to the well-being of others, another youngster from a lower caste who believed in the education system and an orphan lawyer who helped Tirumala.

As the page’s flip, there is social commentary about the system existence in the society in those days. There are many moments where your eyes moistened by the expression of gratitude everyone lived with, by the sacrifices made and by the lifestyle one believed in. There are some moments in the novel where Mr. Maruti Rao gets carried away with the social commentary as the story progresses slowly. But, it is never out of life, sometimes it is stretched a bit too far that is all.

322 pages novel puts the principles of Karma and Dharma through the eyes of many individuals living in a co-existing society that messes up and purifies itself in its own ways. There is purity in many of the relations that exist in the book – Husband and wife, Son and Mother, Friends, Lawyer and Client, much more importantly Human and his God.

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Overall, Gollapudi Maruti Rao’s “Saayankalamaindi” resurrects the nostalgia about the rural societies and makes a strong social commentary about the transformation that intimately tangled many social relations. It is a brilliant novel that needs much more self-analysis and deep dive into questioning our beliefs and practices narrated through the lives of excellent characters.

“All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

This is not the first story that we have read/heard about the World War II and it is not the last. Almost 75 years since the end of the great war, we still have stories to tell, emotions to curb, thoughts to ponder and tributes to pay. Millions of lives were lost during the war which would mean a million stories prevail.

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 “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr narrates the story of two such lives who are on the either side of the war but not actively participating in it. Marie-Laurie, a visually challenged girl is only Twelve when they had to leave Paris and set foot into Saint- Malo. The Germans are on the other side attacking the city to capture the French. On the other side of this war is Werner Pfennig, who is charmingly intellectual but forced to be a part as a technical expert with radios and communications.

Over the next 532 pages, the story flip-flops in two dimensions: a) from the point of view of Werner and Marie-Laurie and b)

a) from the point of view of Werner and Marie-Laurie and b)

b) time starting 1940 leading up to 1944.

Anthony Doerr follows a technique that is not so commonly used in Historical fictions- the short chapters. Generally, historical fictions demand extensive attention to detail by loading off an intense amount of information to the reader. It is not a bad thing given the fact that someone is reading  a historical because they are interested in the setting as much as the story. Anthony Doerr does that too. He feeds you with loads of detailed information but ensures the focus is not on a single object.

Anthony Doerr does that too. He feeds you with loads of detailed information but ensures the focus is not on a single object.

He feeds you with loads of detailed information but ensures the focus is not on a single object. The chapters are occasionally just one page long and sometimes goes to seven to eight pages. The good thing about short chapters is you do not get tired of being in the same setting for way too long and the downside is keeping track of what’s happening at each setting.

He counters it with another technique – the sections. The sections and titles were marked eloquently such that you can separate out 1940s sections and 1944s sections and just read the story in a linear narration rather than the flip flops mentioned above.

The attention to detail and the empathy for the lives that were stuck amid the battle for power of politicians/ stories makes the book a wonderful read. If only it was easy to plug in information from a third, fourth and some other sources, it would be a great historical compilation of Saint Malo.

M S Dhoni – A Tribute

India’s most successful captain and probably the best in the present generation, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, calls it a day to the reigns of captaincy and he does it in his style – calm and simple. Multiple newspapers and digital media reported that he spent the day after his announcement playing PS with his Jharkhand teammates. It doesn’t come across a surprise for a man who always trusted his instincts and backed his decisions.

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My association with M S Dhoni is largely selfish if you might want to call it so. My journey with him, started back in 2007 when he was handed the T20I captaincy and I was going through a difficult phase of sorts.

10 years hence, the man had witnessed every success that you could think of for an international cricket captain. He won World T20 championship, followed it up with No. 1 Test ranking and completed the trio with ODI World Cup. It just doesn’t end there as India won Champions Trophy in England. The list continues with multiple IPL Trophies and Champions League title.

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I might not have seen success in the scale of his but I had won my own battles. The first and probably the biggest learning I had from him was way back in 2007 when he mentioned the reasoning behind why there is no point in worrying about the outcome. It might seem a simple proposition but the younger me needed someone to tell me that.

M S Dhoni might not be the most skillful or talented player of his times but he exactly knew where to put his money on. The question most people doesn’t often ask themselves is: if there is one attribute about you that you can bet your life on, what would that be? I asked the question myself and I do always now. Back yourself is what he always believed in.

As the limited overs formats started to reign over the longer format, it took a sense of adaptability not just for the players but for the viewers too. This is what M S Dhoni mentioned about the way to deal limited overs when you are constrained by your resources:

“In Tests, there is only one variable you can control – wickets and with limited resources, we had back then, it was often tough to manage the variable. Whereas in limited overs format, you have two variables to control – wickets and deliveries. The more variables you have, the easier it gets as long you have one variable sorted out.”  More variables are not always chaos; you just need to know the variable you can control effectively.

As the leader, he trusted his players. He wanted the ones who does the job for him- doesn’t matter if it was the most popular choice. The leader needs to do what it takes to get the job done which would often lead to unconventional decision making. “Think out of the box” is the most commonly and very abusively used terminology but to think what fits and ticks the box is not a common choice recommended.

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As like many admirers of his, I got into many arguments about why he is much resourceful than others. But, as time passed by, as the man transformed from being an example of machoism with his long hair and often references to his love towards advanced bikes, to a man of brains who brought the intellectualism to the game, I changed myself too.

He is a man who effectively helped transition Indian cricket from the generation of masterful Big 4 to the aggressive generation which demands them to be jack of multiple trades. The generation needed a leader that could choose the trade that is most needful and back it.

M S Dhoni is that mentor and role model for many of our generation as he is for me.

A Year in Reading – 2016

A year ago, I decided to actively pursue my reading interest. To consciously follow that interest, I set up myself a challenge to read a book every week which accounted for 52 books. One year later, I am happy that I could come close to the target – finished reading 50 books, two short of my target.

I didn’t exactly follow the reading list that I decided at the start of this challenge. The list grew as time progressed and the desire to read from diverse subjects helped me to pick books on subjects that I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen.

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In 2016, I read books from across the continents, across the genres and across the subjects.

I read books from a mortician, a geobotanist, and a film critic.

I read books on the evolution of human species, how the genes were created and manipulated, how the societies evolve and collapse.

I read books from Noble prize winners, Man Booker shortlisted and winners, Pulitzer prize winners.

I read classics that stood the test of time – involved explaining philosophy, describing a dystopian world, and magical realism.

I read books that involved conflicts from within societies and from external sources in Japan, Syria, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and China.

I read books about medical circumstances of being mortal and autism.

I read books that taught the art of motorcycle maintenance, raising a pet hawk, hunting a man-eater and writing stories about them.

50 Books and 18,078 Pages made me wander through the world of fantasy, pulled me back to harsh reality, taught me the skills that would be handy in the times of adversary and finally deeply understand myself as an individual, as a part of society and as a part of species.

 

Best Books I Read in 2016: (in no particular order)

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1984 by George Orwell

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Thomas Avila Laurel

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The Morning they came for Us by Janine Di Giovanni

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Diaries by Robert M. Pirsig

 

Books that surprised me in 2016: (in no particular order)

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Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

This Divided Island by Samanth Subramanian

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A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randell

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code by Michael Lewis

 

Complete List of 50 Books.

Let me know your thoughts on the books, if this list or thoughts shared for each book was helpful in anyway possible. Kindly support and follow the blog for latest blog posts on books and many more topics.