Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Expectations hurt!!

The Casual Novel

I usually refrain from writing reviews for my unfinished reads. But here is an exception, an unfortunate exception to my behavior. I do not intend to give my review for this book as a sign of respect to literature. A full fledged review which provides justice (as well as reveals the suspense) can be found here. Instead, I express here the disappointment of a fan and the frustration of a reader. 

I believe comparison is always an insult to a writer and with deep remorse I compare J.K.Rowling's writing with that of other adult fiction writers and her imagination with that of her own in Harry Potter series. This work is Rowling first contribution to adult fiction and what a waste of hype and talent. Rowling has insulted reader's sensibility by translating 'adult' fiction into mere erotic work of cheap taste. The book lacks intelligence of characters and brilliance of narration (which is almost always excruciatingly slow). The reader is thrown into a clumsy amalgamation of stereotypical characters, cliched behaviors and predictable dialogues and responses. The attention to details which HP books demanded is no more relevant in muggle world. So, Rowling did not have to explain removing gloves for a full paragraph! 

Just because the chosen genre is 'adult fiction' the teenagers as well as adults in the novel have vocabularies full of cuss words. Regardless of age, families and situations obscenity rolls of the characters' tongues. Any moment of intimacy seems vulgar and no teenager is free of smut. Drugs, abuse, sex, emotional trauma- these form the central idea of the novel. I have read and appreciated few of Sydney Sheldon's works which revolve around sex and violence for their purpose and maturity. But Rowling's version of adult comedy disgusted me in it's childish handling of serious matters such as rape, drugs and child mental health. Reader is grossed out with descriptions such as the hairy navel of an overweight husband, rounded belly blocking the penis from view, the "crusty" anus of a toddler and so on.

This novel is a pure disappointment for all the razzmatazz surrounding Rowling's adult fiction entry. The novel is Rowling's desperate attempt to establish her credibility as a writer outside her comfort zone. What repelled me more than the careless vulgarism was the lack of depth in bringing out emotions. They always had to find an obscene way to come out or not come altogether. Not able to take in more of this skewed narration I gave up reading the book midway. Perhaps out of sheer nostalgia of a great storyteller I might force myself to sit through the rest of the book but the day is still far ahead. Does Rowling's magic end with Albus Severus Potter bidding us bye or will her storytelling magic unfold before us many more marvels? As is the weakness of any fan, I too will wait for Rowling's next magic for I feel her journey as a writer is here to stretch. 

Buy The Casual Vacancy from

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Educate, Organize, Agitate

Dr. B R Ambedkar
All Indians were made to read lessons on Ambedkar in their school curriculum. But hardly anybody thought of including his ideals in social studies.
I happened to read a testament to his intelligence and critical thinking; a paper read by Ambedkar at an anthropological seminar in New York on 9 May 1916.
The paper "Castes in India: Their mechanism, Genesis and Development" can be found here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book review: Steve Jobs

I resisted my best friend's proddings to read this book for over an year since it's release. My reasons???
"There are thousands of techno wizards in 20th century and why should I bother to read Steve Jobs? I don't read biographies of every Tom, Dick and Harry, what is so special about him!! This book is hyped around Steve Jobs' death. Let that poor soul find some peace. Stop bugging me to read."

No prize for guessing I was WRONG. I reluctantly picked up this book after I could no longer find an unread book in my bookshelf. Before long into the book I realized it is not a mere biography but a goddamn spiritual book. Steve Jobs-Apple and spirituality??? Strange right. I was amazed too, seeing how the writer saw Jobs. Steve had no control over the content of his biography and he had waived his rights to read the book before publication. Steve as I found out was more than just a CEO. You might be tired of the adjectives used to describe him: visionary, revolutionary, thinker, change bearer etc. I have two words for him "Freaking Awesome". 

The influence of a genius over others is not by his words but by his life! The conventions of society dictate that every human subject himself to the rules of conformity and Steve grew up defying every instance of authority and conformity. Steve represented an era where the cultural norm of repressing our feelings was over. At 12 when most of us grow up taking orders from the supposedly intelligent elders, Steve led his own journey of exploration. He had the confidence and guts to blow up crackers in school and audacity to call up HP CEO for a chip unavailable elsewhere. While a contemporary legend Bill Gates quit Harvard to start a company, Jobs dropped out of college to travel to India and find peace. Steve was enthralled by dropping acid, learning calligraphy, practicing meditation and leading a minimalist Zen life in his younger days. Such a wayward kid would then exert his intelligence to build the most valued company in the world.

Jobs was always unconventional, unyielding and lived a life of dichotomy. Everything was either shithead or brilliant for him and he never compromised on a mediocre philosophy. Steve Jobs makes you realize the power of dreaming and the strength of desire through his exertion of influence on all people and decisions surrounding him. Jobs never ever took a decision in his life to accumulate wealth rather his deeds spoke volumes about his passion and commitment to achieve the impossible. Jobs was not a technical geek per se but he knew exactly what to expect out of one. He combined technology and art (yes! Steve Jobs was more of an artist than a businessman) in harmony. His uncanny ability to strike tough deals had an impregnable focus on future.

Even after his death, Steve Jobs arouses a sleeping achiever inside you through this book. Steve makes you to think, to evaluate yourself, to question the norms of society, to work for your dream fulfillment, to roar beyond the limitations of yourself and your surroundings. Here is what Steve's story does to you:

  • You learn to say no to dickheads
  • You surround yourself with A players
  • You give BS to people who say you CAN'T do
  • You believe in simplicity of ideas
  • You trust in purity of heart and not in the pretense of bozos
  • You brave the circumstances to hold your ground
  • You understand there is nothing called impossibility 
  • You live for dreams and not for money
  • You accept sensitivity
  • You stop wearing a mask to please others
  • You come to know that failure is not a taboo 
  • You realize the power of DOING
Steve's strength of character comes from his self-training of Buddhism and practice of Zen habits. He placed profound respect in living intuitively, a quality he picked up from his observation of Indian village life. Jobs practiced eastern philosophies of minimalism and vegetarianism throughout his life even at the end of his grueling cancer treatment. He exposed himself to read greatest spiritual works of eastern world such as Autobiography of a Yogi and Cutting through spiritual materialism with the first being his lifelong companion (he read it many times in his younger days and once every year for his entire life). In spite of strong philosophies Jobs was a man of intense emotions of rage, anger, frustration, bad mannerisms and inability to honor perspectives different from that of his own. His uncouth, brutal managerial skills won him the destiny to build a great company such as Apple. His love for the marriage of art and technology (through Pixar Animation Studios and The Walt Disney Company collaboration) led to greatest motion pictures of our times: Toy story, Monsters, Cars et al. 

The author Walter Isaacson, famous for his brilliant biographies on Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein has presented a commendable work on Steve's life. This book is a product of more than 40 interviews conducted over 2 years with Jobs and many other interviews with 100-150 family members, colleagues, competitors, adversaries and mentors. The author has given a brilliant account of how Steve built the greatest company in the world and also the revolutionary products. This book is a validation for Steve's passion, brilliance and influence which made a dent in the universe. 

Who would enjoy reading this piece of human capability wonder of 630 pages?
  • Those who want to know the tale of a man whose dream and passion changed the world for better
  • Those who want a peek into the life of the toughest CEO on earth
  • Those who have a deep interest in the technological development of second half of 20th century
  • Those who love Apple products
  • Those who want to understand why Jobs is called a phenomenon when there are thousand other visionaries of same caliber
  • Those who want to know what is important for peace in life
  • Those who dare to dream
I took almost a week (with lots of essay writing for my college applications I couldn't totally immerse in the book) to savor the reading and exploring of Steve's dreams. You too can share the excitement by buying yourself a copy:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Review: The 7 habits of highly effective people

The 7 habits of highly effective
I introduce......
Often in life we come across motivation from unexpected means. My motivation to start a blog came from a rather disappointing exam! And how thankful I am that I did not succeed in the exam for I could never have jumped into the knowledgeable world of blogging. 2.5 months of blogging, reading and a tad more blogging, I came across a guy who defied normal conventions of job security and set out to find a better world on his own- Anil Bhandary. I also happen to realize that the world is indeed small and Anil happened to be my college senior and we have many common friends. To let you all enjoy his powerful yet laid back writing, here is a guest post by him. Enjoy madi!

Anil talks...
'Self-help': The first thing that comes to my mind as I read the title of the book. I dislike the word. Why? Because it has come to represent something fake. Don't get me wrong, I love improving myself and I believe in the concept of self-improvement, but this word has come to represent duplicity: smile more and make more friends, think positive and your problems would be solved, if you can think it you can achieve it - kind of bullshit. Well, if those were to really happen I would have, by now, been leading a billion dollar MNC and would have been partying in some beach in Hawaii islands. I'm not.

And thank god, this book isn't one of those kind of self help book.

What this book isn't? It isn't a band-aid, the quick fix kind of self help book.  

What this book is? This is an inside out book. This book, I think, if read and implemented will make you effective. Two reasons why I think so. One: The 7 habits that the author introduces are not new. It focuses on making you aware of what is innate, it tries to show you what you are chiefly made of in the core. Two: The author tells you stories from his own life and experiences which you can relate to.

In my 6th class, I used to go to a store nearby to school to buy the Center Fresh chewing gum. Once in my hand, I would open it. Chewing gum looked normal. I would, then, use both my hands to break it apart. As I did that, the blue gel from heaven would ooze out. I would place it in my mouth which would take me to a higher level of blissfulness. When I returned back, I would take the other half and repeat. What a experience! :)

This book is like that center fresh chewing gum. From outside it is like just another bubble gum, just another self help book. But on the inside, the insights will make you feel fresh and equipped.  

What you will find inside? Author starts with your world, your paradigm to give an astounding practical example of how you and other person need not agree and yet, both be right. With that revelation you will be able to open up to (obvious) self-discoveries that he shares further. Contents - He divides the book into 3 parts
  1. Private victory (3 habits) : Your way to Independence 
    • Habit 1 - Be Proactive : He tells being proactive is more than just taking initiatives. It means as human beings we are responsible for our own lives. Responsibility is the ability to respond.
    • Habit 2 - Begin with the End in Mind: Though this seems obvious, he shares interesting stories of why we tend to ignore this point. 
    • Habit 3 - Put first things first: Stories of we confusing important things with urgent. And why we should start focusing on the important.
  2. Public victory (3 habits) : Your way from Independence to Interdependence
    • Habit 4 - Think Win/Win : Author talks of our urge to focus more on the winning which is not always good and leads us into understanding Win/Win.
    • Habit 5 - Seek first to understand, and then to be understood: Introduces us to the 5 kinds of listening and tells us why it is also important to seek to be understood. Probably the most toughest habit to practice.
    • Habit 6 - Synergize: Sum is greater than its parts. Author explains of the creative energies that comes when we synergize.
  3. Sharpen the Saw (the 7th habit) and grow Inside Out: This is about preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have - you. 
The habits sound obvious, but the way he introduces them is interesting. He stretches some stuff, but I would trade it for what I can learn. This book teaches you achieve things in the hard way, the way that is in alignment with your principles, your values. Your true way.
My verdict: Must read
Who is this book for? Not for everyone. This is for people who dare to look inside themselves, who can take responsibility for their situation and who believe that you can grow inside out.

Now the ball is in your court.

Anil concludes...

I resume.....
About the author: Anil quit his job recently to live his dreams. He tells stories of exploring and living at his blog. Apart from writing, he likes doing anything that creates connections and makes him feel alive. Often he shares some cool stuff at the blog's facebook page and tweets also.