Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book review: The Mountain of Light

The Mountain of Light

“There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” 
-Bertrand Russel

Few reads just alter the way you look at something. I was driven into silence after I finished my latest read and was deeply engrossed in research. I read mounds of articles on the Punjab empire, it's treasure, it's ancestry - even the servants of Sikh royal ancestry have tales to tell. I am mesmerised now, knowing all too well that India is strewn with endless saga of affluence, influence, power, bloodshed and a talent that the world has never imagined to exist.

I thank Indu Sundaresan for sending me a pre-release copy of this captivating historical fiction. I took to reading this book with a lot of apprehension since I was unsure of whether this book would impress me. Having read Indu's previous triology on Taj story, I certainly thought her latest book wouldn't have anything new to offer me. But I am glad to be disproved this way because her signature style of using an enthralling imagery served it's purpose yet another time. I was transposed into pre-independent Indian times where aristocracy, diplomacy and invasion were at their best. History fed to me in such a delightful way is an always welcomed gesture. I am left with a hunger to know more, to imagine more and to relish more of the centuries old Indian tussle with a foreign power.

The beginning of the story is set against the backdrop of a lush Punjab empire in the western frontier of India. The larger-than-life ruler of Punjab empire, Ranjit Singh is hosting another king in exile- Shah Shuja. This deposed Afghan ruler has been kept under protection (read house arrest) in the beautiful Shalimar Gardens with a promise of all the help to regain his kingdom. But the Punjab's lion only bargain in exchange of his support is to get the possession of Kohinoor diamond from Shah's wife Wafa Begum. What follows in the narration is how the diamond changes hands from Wafa Begum to Ranjit Singh, how East India Company lays a greedy eye on it and eventually how the world's biggest diamond is secreted out of India on a voyage to land in the crown of Queen Victoria of England.

The narration comes through different characters and with an extended timeline shrunken into a mere 300 odd pages. Naturally the reader finds herself relishing in the perspectives of different characters. There is the lordliness of a generous king of a mighty empire, unadulterated admiration of a general towards his master, shrewdness of a woman under veil, amusement of an outsider finding home in a land that couldn't be more foreign to him, the innocence of a little boy who looses his priceless empire and all the power that comes along with it to a foreign hand only to find himself living off the scrap of a salary from the same hand.

Only at the end of the novel did I realise how much I wanted it to end in a different way, how I wanted the young Maharajah to have been a little older to truly understand what was at stake in his life, how I wanted a piece of India to be independent for a little longer than it did in actuality. The last chapter 'Diary of a Maharajah' was heart wrenching for me as I had to read along Dalip Singh's bewilderment in a foreign land. This young prince was uprooted from his homeland and Anglicised in every possible way before being taken to London to be presented in front of the Queen mother. My heart went out to this child who was a puppet king from the age of 5 under British, removed from the care of his mother into an English couple's guardianship, christened even before he was 15 (though he converted back to his birth religion of Sikhism at the latter part of his life) and visited his homeland as a foreigner only twice under the controlled-watchful eyes of Britishers.

The characters take over the show in this novel of Indu's. Although there are quite a lot of main characters in the narration, a reader will be able to associate with them all. There are haughty mighty rulers of lands, demure and enigmatic Indian women of power, unsympathetic East India Company officials while many other Englishmen who blended with the rich fabric of Indian culture and called India their home, English maidens with a longing for love and companionship et al. One character particularly stood out to me which is that of a faithful son of the soil who gave up his life to stop Kohinoor from adorning another lord. This character is greatly inconsequential in comparison to others involved in the mayhem of Kohinoor transport but yet the subtlety with which the author has painted this character makes one's heart melt.

A good read to me is the one that sets me up for many more reads and I dare say I indulged myself in Punjab Empire and a bit of East India Company history. This book revels in the mellowness of Indian culture, diplomacy of a falling kingdom and the ruthlessness of a conqueror. On a parting note I want to uphold one dismal fact of Indian history that it was made mostly by men. I recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers and especially to those who bask in fiction with good imagery.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” 
― William Styron

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Is quality dependent on the price?

It's often a norm in our society to treat any less expensive product to be of low quality, but there is a book publishing brand that just proves it wrong- Pratham Books.

Pratham Books
Pratham Books is a non-profit organization that is striving hard to make India a better reader by publishing richly illustrated excellent content books at throw away prices. I happened to buy it's entire book collection into my classroom only to be humbled myself at the quality of books. I got the same irresistible urge to rip open all the packages that I get on receiving books. I soon employed myself into reading all the 69 books (perks of being a literacy teacher). 

I am a lot wiser after the completion of this reading. Most often than not adults consider they have an upper hand in knowledge in comparison to children. But I cannot stress enough how that illusion is broken every time one reads children literature. Pratham books like 'Sailing Home' and  'A Royal Procession' drill into young minds the nuances of Indian history. Children are lured into learning history through captivating short stories and colourful illustrations. Stories like 'Chuskit goes to school' and 'Cheenu's gift' make children understand social disparities among healthy and disabled, rich and poor by upholding humane qualities. There are many other books which speak of traditional occupations of India and educate children about the rich heritage of India. The set of Pratham Books I bought exposes one to culture of different parts of India, artistic diversity of various locations, moral values for righteous life, money management, various art forms et al. The books are levelled at 4 different reading capabilities of children and available in 11 Indian languages that just opens up opportunities for children from all linguistic and economic backgrounds. 

Kids can learn a humongous amount of vocabulary and ideas through covering these books. The ideas are rendered in such a bright child fashioned manner that it's hard to not absorb the linguistic knowledge. I made up for the loss of reading in my childhood by indulging in Pratham books. I advocate the use of Pratham Books in every household and every classroom. Indian young generation is at a stage where it's getting exposure to English language only through foreign literature. Pratham Books is a ray of hope in educating India in English through Indian context. I recommend these books to all and sundry.

You can also read this review on Pratham Books blog here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A lovebird's musing!

A blush on my face and my futile efforts to wipe them off from there!
Heeding to the curiosity of people wondering when, why and where?
Do I have to worry about them or even care
When all I should think about is how lucky I am to have him here. 

All the blues vanish into a blossom pink
When he spells love with a lip sync 
Should I ever open my eyes I often think
Lest he vanish again when I blink

- Harsha 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Perks of being a literacy teacher!

I write this because

"We must always listen to the song in our heart, and share that song with others"
Mattie Stepanek

For a book junkie like me no other job would have better suited than that of a literacy teacher. I am exposed to children literature like never before. My regret of not having read much books as a child is out of the window for now that I get to read and validate every book before my kids lay their hands on them. I have come across authors such as Dr.Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, E.B.White and attractive books from Pratham book house and Tulika publications.

In my free hours I casually sneak up to the school library with the pretext of selecting books for my kids and get lost in the colorful illustrations of children books. Humble children books are flooded with philosophies that adult books take hundreds of pages to explore. Dr.Seuss shows us that there is no definite structure to imagination and fairy tales act like mirror to the society in upholding the commonly preserved stereotypes. The junior encyclopaedias, magazines and other informative books never miss to amuse you. There are so many bugs, trivia about different countries, information about every god-damn thing on the earth. If you ever think you are too smart to teach a kid you should sometime pay a visit to the child section of the book stores. The playful early reading books put your vocabulary to shame and teach you the lesson that life's got to be colorful for you to enjoy it.

It is an altogether enchanting sight to watch kids read the books all by themselves. My smartest kid snuggles up near my chair and summarizes every story he read from the book in his hand. One other kid is responsible for my heart to swell up with pride just because she can comprehend incredibly everything she reads. There are kids reading on the toy horse and serious introverts hiding their faces in big fancy books. Few others pace up and down the hallway occasionally beaming at some delightful incidence in their book. It is worth every minute of lesson planning to just witness your kids spotting every new concept/word learnt in the book that they are reading. The word 'Atmosphere' makes a boy jump and come running to me with his encyclopaedia while a girl is too excited to sing a song as it has the "rhythm" that she learnt is a feature of each beautiful poem.

Learning about so many different reading and word strategies hasn't just helped my kids but also turned me into a better reader. I have realised all the wrong ways of pronouncing few commonly used words while I can confidently learn more new words without the aid of a dictionary all the time. This teaching has made up for the lost time I had as a student myself. I can inflict my passion for books among my children too. My job is a direct translation of my innermost desire-to read and write better each day, everyday. I constantly get to read fresh piece of creativity everyday. It is an occupational hazard ;)

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My favourite articles!

On the account of my blog anniversary I want to share a list of articles I wrote that are very dear to me:

Hope I continue to keep this dear hobby of mine close in spite of the hectic schedule I work in.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” 
― Dr. Seuss

How would you feel when the vocabulary book, say Power of Words made easy (name changed) had a lot of cartoon illustrations and rhythmic poems to teach you those big, elusive words? Learning of so many graduates for GRE, CAT and various other exams would have been so much easier! I see 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' in the same light for kids.

This one is a delight to read, so rhythmic and breezy. There is a poor honest boy called Charlie who lives with his parents along with 2 sets of grandparents in a dilapidated house. A world famous mysterious chocolate factory exists in his home town about which he has heard a ton of stories from Grandpa Joe. Charlie luckily comes in possession of one of the four golden tickets for a visit to the factory. The factory's owner Mr. Willy Wonka becomes the host to show Charlie and three other winners his proud factory. What follows in the story is how each of those other 3 kids (a glutton, a spoilt brat and a TV maniac) get thrown out of the factory even before the complete tour is done.

This book stretches kids' imagination by pushing the brain to imagine tens of incredible mechanisms in a factory and delights the readers through a lenient dash of poetry throughout the story. The characters in the book are eccentric stereotypes of the world and kids will get to know a hell lot of describing words. The imagery in the book is just what kids would enjoy. Since the book is all about chocolates, the kids will have one problem reading this book - they can never put it down!!

I recommend this book to all adults who are interested in reading literature with word play and rich imagery. I am sure even adults' vocabulary would be enriched after this reading experience. This book is typically for kids of age 8-12 with appropriate grade level hold on English.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Down the memory lane

How often I repent for not having preserved my scribbles from childhood!! I did not have great organisational skills as a kid (and neither do I currently) which resulted in the lost pages of my childhood artistry. But my current fellowship with Teach For India is letting me bring back all the lovely memories of childhood dreams. I sneaked into reading many a wonderful books that I bought for my kids. The first set of books I bought them included "Once Upon a Time", "Arabian Nights" and "Akbar and Birbal" series. The pictures in one of the "Akbar and Birbal" books took me back to my school days when I was 11. I had drawn and colored a scene where Akbar the great does an act of great foolishness. Ah! how lovely the kids' books are.

I read 15 odd story books in 3 hours without taking a break. No wonder my kids are mad behind reading stories with pictures. I was thrilled to read stories in Indian context. I was never a good reader in my childhood and now is the time I'm compensating for it. If I did not have the responsibility of planning my teaching hours, I would spend countless hours copying all the pictures in those books.

Now coming to the review of these books, I must say they are a compulsory read for anybody (adults included). For the kids, the illustrations make the books very inviting and the simple language is suitable for kids with a reading level of upto 5th grade. The story setting and characters are something kids can relate to very easily. There is an introduction to a lot of new professions and general vocabulary which the kids are in dire need of. What elders struggle to teach kids through countless lessons and dull activities, these books teach them tirelessly. Kids are introduced to an array of bad behaviours and suitable punishments. What bad things elders try to generally hide from kids are put forth in a very delicate balance so that the kids are aware of those things. The books are filled with fairies, thieves, idiots, kings and many such fantasies, which kids are sold for. And above all these books are fun!!

It is important for elders (read parents and teachers) to read these books before the kids and subtly relate their behavior to the morals of the story.

The best part: The pictures are so easy to copy down and color.

“There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” 
― J.K. Rowling

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: Lean In

Lean in

Success is making the best choices we can and accepting them
-         - Sheryl Sandberg

A new trend common these days is bracketing behaviour as feminist and non-feminist. One cannot speak of gender equality without falling into either of these classifications. And when a book comes out that directly attacks the sensitive area of “women empowerment” it is bound to be branded sexist/feminist and put into a shelf screaming out the same. After Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO of Facebook gave out a stately TED talk that has been viewed more than 2 million times, she set out to write a book on the same lines.

In a world that has less than 4% of women in the leadership positions of fortune 500 companies, Sheryl posits that we need more women at the top to ensure the empowerment of women and for this purpose she has chalked out various guidelines and suggestions for both men and women. I believe it cannot be called a manifesto per se, but can serve as a wonderful insight into the thought process of a successful woman.

Sheryl has been openly bashed for being brave and calling out for measures to bridge the gender inequality. Whenever a successful (or in most cases slightly successful) man comes up with a self-help book he is much lauded for his willingness to help the world. When a successful woman genuinely tries to pull other women ahead with her, what is the need to term her efforts as sexist and pretentious? Although the book may not be considered a literary brilliance, I stand by Sheryl’s philosophy mentioned in the book of getting more women at the top.

Now reflecting on the contents of the book, I would say be your own judge and take only those suggestions that are apt for your socio-economic conditions. Sheryl quotes brilliant anecdotes and often comes across as a warm and vulnerable person. Reading the book is thrilling for one it has life snippets of famous and powerful people and second it convincingly drives home the fact that every other person in the world has familial and careerist problems. Sheryl often supports her claims through statistics, research studies and personal experience.

Sheryl tells the readers how she and many other top notch working women handle family and work. I loved it when she made a point how work-life balance is itself a funny concept and how one cannot separate work from life. If you treat your work as a separate entity apart from your life then probably you are not working in a job you love. Sheryl assumes a type of problem-solving approach most leaders use - that of sharing her experience during problematic times. This makes the book easily readable and to attract the connectivity with the reader.

One thing that could be better in the book is the sloppy transition to universal sentiments. Sheryl usually talks about a certain approach throughout a chapter and then suddenly at the end of the chapter she declares that she believes in the age-old wisdom and the alternate approach is also equally right. This incoherent transition has rendered the ending of many chapters unimpressive.

I recommend this book to those who have the habit of catching up with the latest sensations of the literary world and to those who love the typical Harvard alums way of writing a persuasive book (FYI: Sheryl is a Harvard alumna). This book having less than 200 pages is a breezy read and has the contribution and time of many talented persons as is evident from the acknowledgement section. Career loving parents (read working moms in popular lingo) should definitely try this out. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Story begins!

I learnt the art of story telling from my mom who is till today a very descriptive and animated life story teller. I grew up and am still leading my life listening to her stories of her own childhood, people and relationships in her life, struggles and victories of her life. Today I wanna share a story that humbled me the most.

There are kids coming from low income families to my class in summer school. One such kid is Mahesh and he is one of the most sincere and intelligent kids I have seen. He is a fast learner and a fantastic dancer who does locking, popping, rock and roll and many other forms of dancing. I had a chance to visit the community he lives in and the things I saw there amused me.

  • Mahesh had studied in a dilapidated Telugu medium school in a remote village of Andhra Pradesh. He has been in Pune English school for only an year. What's admirable is that he has learnt Hindi and English to conversational level in just less than an year.
  • Mahesh's parents are 100% illiterates and that hasn't stopped him from succeeding in academics. Mahesh bagged A2 grade, which corresponds to 81-90%  in 5th standard exams - this being without any kind of help with studies at his home.
  • Mahesh lives in servant quarters in a 10*10 square feet single room sharing the space with 3 other people of his family.
The above facts are just highlights of Mahesh's intellect while there are so many other things to be considered. He is a very curious child who is sincere and always ready to help his classmates. This boy displays tremendous amount of self-confidence and learns quickly. He draws inspiration from the successful people around him and aspires to become an army doctor.

I set out to teach him but now I realize he is already inspired from deep within his heart. I can learn from him and look back into my memories and fondly remember this kid from my first ever classroom. The world is too quick in forming biases about the low income communities but I believe they are no different from others, all they need is opportunities.

You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
- Swami Vivekananda

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Teach For India

You have heard me speak about dreams and passion in my articles and hope is the tone of most of the books and blogs I read. Now you would ask what's the use of reading so much! Is it just to write about them?


During the past two years of my life I broke out of the cocoon and started practising the most important advantage of living - taking my important decisions without being flown away by other people's influence. I read books, travelled (in my own limits) and spoke to many people just so to draw the courage to declare my decision. I moulded my thinking so as to muster courage to articulate my dreams. This is the path I set out to enter the path of education sector and being a change agent in our society:

Initial thinking:
I always knew deep in my heart that IT industry was not my cup of tea. I choose to do engineering at an age where I was not emotionally strong enough to fight for my choice. I lacked the maturity to understand myself and as does happen with most other middle class youngsters, I too ended up in an engineering college. I do not say I hated my subjects but I couldn't imagine being in that field for a lifetime. Sixth semester was when I decided I would quit the field of electronics and communication. Although I had a GPA of 9.0/10.0 which is a very high standard to qualify as a good engineer, I did not provide the field any justice. For the sake of electronic industry and myself, I quit being a mediocre engineer and continued to dream of another career.

First step:
I got into one of the big four consulting companies (owing to my very good communication skills and aptitude although definitely not because of my electronics knowledge) and decided to stay put there until I could define my dream perfectly.

It hurt my conscience many a times that I am not doing 100% justice to my job. I convinced myself that it is okay to be on the wrong path for a while if that path joins the bigger path you wish to be on. As Steve Jobs said in his Stanford speech, one can connect the dots looking backwards not forwards. This has been true with my case since my stint with consulting gave me friends, resources and time needed for self-introspection. I had nothing to lose but a lot to gain.

I understood that since childhood education has been very dear to me. If I can do something relentlessly forever then it's got to be issues related to education. I applied and got offers from 3 foreign universities for an MBA in social entrepreneurship, two with scholarships upto 15 lacs INR. I got offers from two prestigious fellowships in India, one being Teach For India(TFI). There! I had many tickets to enter the field of social service in education.

Why I do what I chose?
 After a lot of thinking, I took an informed decision of joining TFI movement. TFI is a perfect fit for my ambitions because

  • TFI has restored the honour into the lustre lost old profession of teaching. Here I do not have to teach but I must transform my kids' lives. There are hundreds who have already done that. Thousands of kids came out of poverty, abuse and negligence to have a normal chance at living because of TFI. 
  • TFI provides idealistic youngsters like me an opportunity to combat the educational inequity crisis in our nation heads on. 
  • TFI is a leadership movement. I can learn more things in this fellowship than I could learn being at any other place. 
  • TFI has put me amidst a bunch of high achievers who have jumped into the bandwagon of eradicating poor quality education. Your success is decided by the people you work with and I am completely convinced that I can grow as a tremendous leader embodying patience, humility and a sense of possibility. 
  • TFI has created a structure where every single person involved is welcome to grow and achieve excellence irrespective of whether  is s/he a student, staff or fellow. 
  • TFI is an organisation where leaders truly inspire juniors and they all speak a single language of hope and service.
  • TFI folks taught me the spelling of coolness.

    Here is one of the lot to redefine hope:
Journey and the future
In the next two years of TFI fellowship, I will be responsible for the lives of 40+ kids and it is my capability that their future depends on. Teaching a kid with life lessons is a challenge and I am confident that I am equipped to take up that challenge 40 times over in two years. The curriculum will be like nothing seen before, the methods completely innovative and the love entirely infinite. I will be provided the support system of TFI staff at every step I stumble and it is my responsibility along with fellow cohorts to transform the kids' lives for better. 

The future holds nothing but hopes for my kids. I have met children from low income societies who have transcended all limitations of society because of the excellent education and love they have received from past fellows. I have made a promise to myself that I would work humbly in every way to transform the life of as many kids as possible through education. 

Somebody has to go polish the stars,
They’re looking a little bit dull.
Somebody has to go polish the stars,
For the eagles and starlings and gulls
Have all been complaining they’re tarnished and worn,
They say they want new ones we cannot afford.
So please get your rags
And your polishing jars,
Somebody has to go polish the stars.
-Shel Sliverstein

I can speak volumes about how TFI has changed me in such a little time. One incidence worth mentioning is how my perception of gentleness and love changed. Never in my life did I pet an animal before. But today I wanted to hold a puppy and talk to him for a minute. For a person who has never been closer than 1ft to an animal this is a great feat. It shows about the power of the nurturing environment I am in. I hope to change, I hope to transform myself and the society.

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
-Maya Angelou 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book review: The diary of a young girl

Often I come across a book that is in itself a boring read but triggers a series of events making me more knowledgeable. "The diary of a young girl" by Anne Frank is one such book which bored me with rants of a young adolescent but the one which made me read tens of stories about World Wars, Nazi atrocity, holocaust, cruelty of Jew extermination camps and led me to interesting conversations with other enthusiasts. I am now better exposed to the topic of Hitler than I was earlier. This unexpected stumbling on a reservoir of stories and facts forms the definition of a good book.

The book is a diary as the title suggests of a young girl, Anne Frank who goes into hiding with 7 other Jews during the German occupation of Netherlands. Anne receives a diary as a birthday present on her 13th year from her father, just two days before going into hiding. She writes all her letters to an imaginary friend called 'Kitty' and speaks on a gamut of emotions such as her shock from going into hiding, her growing sexuality, her troubled relationship with her mother, her identity crisis as an adolescent, her routine in the 'Secret Annexe' (the name of their hiding place as given by Anne), her views on the ongoing of second World War, her dreams post-war et al.

The writing style is that of a typical diary (translated from the original manuscript in Dutch) and the reader finds description of mundane routines of the hiding members. The horrors faced by a family in hiding is written in a matter-of-factly manner. The reader gets to see the intensifying and simultaneously confusing emotions of an adolescent and anybody can relate with Anne's emotions of a teenager. There is a glimpse of Dutch and Jewish culture to relish. It is heart wrenching to read the fate of all those 8 members of the 'Secret Annexe' once they were found by the Nazi gestapo officers. An elaborate description of Anne's life can be read here: Of all the 8 Jew victims who were arrested, only Anne's father Otto Frank survived the extermination camp by a sliver of good luck since the war ended just when he was about to be executed. Once out of his living hell, Otto comes back to collect whatever was left in the 'Secret Annexe' only to find his daughter's diary. After removing explicit sexual contents of his daughter and vile description of his wife's character by Anne, Otto published the diary for the whole world to read. Till date this book is the most acclaimed account of a Nazi victim's life and Anne has come to represent the six million Jews who were executed in the holocaust.

Here is a movie that does brilliant justice to Anne's diary: The sickness of Nazi treatment to Jews is very well depicted in the movie. I was appalled, disgusted and angered by a particular scene where a family member had to poop in a trashcan since she wasn't allowed to leave the common room while a potential threat occurred to the safety of hiding. 

While the book and the following research about holocaust was intellectually enriching, I was angered beyond expression on the cruelty over Jews worldwide. The pacifist in me was awakened and I came to the conclusion that all and any war serves no purpose to humanity. Probably I need a very strong reason to again believe in the necessity of a war. The read was very slow and I had to rush through many sections where the detailing got very dull and repetitious. This was one of the books I forced myself to finish. 

I recommend this book because:
  • humanity owes Nazi victims' a simple honor of their stories being heard
  • this book will enable further reading on related topics
  • the reader will get to know Nazi atrocities first hand
"What is truth? It is what you choose to believe"
- Jeet Thayil

Hitler's truth cost the lives of 6 million Jews. DON'T ever believe in a truth that costs the lives of millions. 

Further reading:
To give my readers a glimpse of madness that had struck humanity during second World War, here is a story of a doctor who tortured innocent children akin to lab rats:
 Do read all the hyperlinks in the link above to realize the horror of one man's obsession with murder.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Old read with a new perspective

The Alchemist
"The Alchemist is a beautiful book about magic, dreams and the treasures we seek elsewhere and then end on our doorstep"

The above line captures the entire analysis of this book, "The Alchemist" in a simple sentence and I admit that I have nothing more to add to the review. Instead I am going to share with you my reading experience of Alchemist for the second time.

I read this book about 6 years ago when I just wanted to be done with reading a famous book in the must-read book list. Although I was impressed by the book, it was a mere story for me. I had failed to assimilate the philosophy into my life. But in the past 6 years I have matured enough to understand as well as adapt Paulo Coelho's philosophy. This book is by a man who struggled hard to practice non-conformity (one of my current favorite human capabilities) throughout his life. This unassuming 156 page book is a profound philosophy in the form of a treasure hunt story. The boy Santiago breaks all chains of social conventions and leads a life he wanted to lead-a life of travelling and learning. Believing a dream to be a prophecy to be fulfilled, Santiago sets out to find a hidden treasure in the pyramids of Egypt. The journey exposes him to theft, fear, war, love and ultimate realization of human capacity.

I reread this book at a stage when I am at the crossroads in life under an obligation to either choose my dream or to stick to social conventions and expectations. Anyone who reads this book is humbled to listen to one's own heart, choose the dreams which are the most important to oneself and search for love that only expects you to achieve your best. The book upholds the simple human truth that when you run behind your dream, every piece fits into the puzzle naturally and the whole world begins to make better sense. The simple facts of life highlighted in the book:

  • dreams are wonders not to be ignored
  • there is no reason why one shouldn't follow one's dream
  • learn to recognize the pattern of how every act of yours renders you closer to the dream
  • to avoid working towards a dream fulfillment provides only ephemeral peace while it is in realizing a dream that one truly find happiness
Read this book 
if you have a spark in your soul that's waiting to burn
if you need to know how great things are done
if you wanna sweat for success in return

Choose a life that will make you happy. 
As with all matters of life, you will know when you find it.
-Steve Jobs

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How Draupadi wasted precious 2 days of my life!

One tale that India doesn't get tired of retelling is Mahabharatha. Story tellers across all genres, regions, languages and religions have adopted the main Vyasa story into their narration and rendered the epic in various flavours for the common men to relish. The themes of family fights, wars, politics, miracles and morals in Mahabharatha have found multicolored illustrations in stories. The palace of illusions is yet another feeble attempt at narrating the Mahabharatha epic from a different perspective. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has chosen Draupadi as the narrator and it is through her eyes that we see the Mahabharatha unfold.

The novel begins with a rather dull rant from Draupadi about how she sprang into life from the fire along with her brother Drushtadyumna and on she goes to grumble about her inconsequential existence amidst the palace walls. She desperately waits for her turn to fulfill the prophecy of her life-the prophecy which she states would alter the history of Bharat land. Draupadi as is shown in the book is a stupid and trivial selfish person who cribs for half of the book. A new angle seen in the book is that Draupadi has a longing to marry the tragic hero of Mahabharatha-Karna.

* To recount a story I heard from an elder at home I take a small break from my review. Draupadi in her past life was a sage's wife who suffered from tuberculosis. Being the pativrate that she was (all women in our epics are victims of domestic subjugation), she was in the habit of eating out of her husband's leftover plate. Once while doing so, she sees a rotten finger of her TB suffering husband. Alas! she eats the entire meal along with the finger without complaining. After his death some time later, she goes into Shiva Tapasya. Pleased by her Tapasya, Lord Shiva appears before her to grant a wish. On seeing the Lord, the ecstatic Draupadi prays him to grant a better husband in the next life by chanting "Patim dehi" for five times and when she is about to say it for the sixth time and utters "Pati" the Lord stops her and gladly grants the wish. So in the next life Draupadi gets 5 husbands (for chanting Patim dehi 5 times) and also comes too close to marrying another one (for the half "Pati" chant) Karna. *

The other half of the book goes in the obnoxious queen Draupadi detailing various events and their bad outcomes tarnishing her reputation, mood and happiness. Our miss annoying queen dedicates sufficient part of the narration to picture her friendship with Krishna and how her tiny pea sized brain fails to decipher such a great person's character. The only part which holds a reader's interest is the Kurukshetra war description and no surprise in that because the events that unfolded in 18 day epic war are worth anybody's attention no matter who tells the story.

This pesky book would have been a bit more bearable if only it had some profound thought worthy philosophy in it. I agree that Mahabharatha has been rarely told from a woman's perspective but the hype ends at just that fact. You part with the book with a dismal feeling that Draupadi was a waste of space on earth!! A beautiful moral story of Mahabharatha is reduced to sluggish jabber of a silly female.

People who should stay away from this book are those:

  • who think that a character like that of Draupadi cannot be lame.
  • who have heard wonderful Mahabharatha stories from grandparents, mothers et al.
  • who have relished reading thoughtful versions of Mahabharatha.
  • who know the difference between a cribbing selfish girl and a woman of substance.
People who should read this book are those:
  • who wish to have a good laugh about a wretched version of a great epic.
  • who want to warn their friends what books not to read.
If you really want to read a wonderful retelling of Mahabharatha from human point of view then get yourself a copy of "Parva" from S.L.Bhyrappa. 

Quirky facts about Dr.Albert Einstein

All right! Going by the title of the post you might have come here looking for stupendous-man (refer to my dear Calvin's stupendous definitions here) like traits of the greatest intellect of 21st century Einstein.  I am not going to tell things like "Einstein was super human that he never farted in company" and neither that "Einstein ran a secret brotherhood to preserve the mysteries of Jesus Christ", instead I am going to share little somethings from his ordinary life that I picked up from reading this book from Walter Issacson.

  • Einstein was ever forgetful. We all know the tale where he called up Princeton University office to note down his own home address. He would forget keys, leave behind his precious things and often travel to places far away only to realize he doesn't have any clothes with him.
  • Einstein's brain was stolen post his autopsy and evaded from being caught for almost 3 decades after his death. There is also a movie "Relics" dedicated to this story line.
  • Einstein was not mean to his wife. He treated only one of his wife badly :P In order to persuade her to divorce him he lured her with his Nobel prize money.

    An excerpt from Einstein's letter to his second wife (when they were still not married yet):
    "I treat my wife as an employee I can't fire"
  • Einstein ran away from Germany and never returned in fear and disgust for the Nazi rule. (Einstein was a Jew by birth and he was never in terms with his religion as a young man. In the later part of his life he strongly associated his kinship with the troubled Jews and fought for their pride and honor).
  • Einstein was offered the presidency of the newly formed state Israel in 1952 which he rejected promptly for he himself knew very well that he would make a lousy politician.
  • Einstein never got convinced of the path breaking Heisenberg theories which revolutionized Quantum physics. Neither was he convinced of the uncertainty principle nor did he appreciate or approve of the scientific leaps in particle physics. Einstein died a death of non-quantum physics believer.
  • Einstein was a seasoned violinist and connected deeply with music. He often played on his violin in place of giving a speech. I often wonder that music is the language of universe and it seems to attract every human!!Poor, rich, dumb, bright - music has a spell on everyone.

I revelled in reading this piece by Issacson and convinced beyond doubts that he is a wonderful story teller. I recommend this book to anyone who is
  • interested in knowing all the dimensions of Einstein's life
  • eager to know the path breaking scientific discoveries of early 21st century
We often think that success, knowledge and social life can't go hand in hand but when we delve deep into celebrities' lives we realize how mistaken we are and how limited our thinking is. Science and art can revolutionize how we live our lives. A thought insignificant at first can sweep the entire mood of the society. Einstein's scientific contributions did not just create a new chapter of modern physics but his theory of relativity based on non-conformist ideals brought forth an era of new art opposing all norms of conventional thinking. His attitude made many an old league of classical physicists to look in awe and inspired a cadre of youngsters to cross the limit of his capabilities. Einstein lived during a time rather created a time where the field of theoretical physics donned an attire of freshness and creative geniuses of that time sprung to life. Knowing Einstein's life is synonymous to getting a sneak peak into the movement of theoretical physics renewal. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Belated Valentine Thought!

I adored you, you puzzled me
You crushed on me, I was scared
I held a hand, you were terrified
You reconciled with my heart, I started counting our good times
I obsessed, you let go
You pushed me to grow, I helped you to stand
I shed a tear, you invited me to a roar of laughter
I exhibited the bond to the world, you nourished the tenderness in your sweet little world
I ran, you beamed easy
You grew to great heights and my pride heightened
You chided, you applauded
You shared and cared, I embraced and became glad
We danced in brilliance, we breathed in symphony
We were parasites in the form of full grown trees
We clung, we distanced
We romanced, we fought with a unified heart beat
You were a mother in pain, a friend in crime
I was an edifice and at times thorn
You taught me tough love yet became a boon
Every single leap of faith, I took holding on to your kind heart
I draw strength, you are my courage
I am going far but never before stayed so close to you my sweetheart!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Running down the alley
Yes, I can see the light 
Two more steps 
I daresay I can hold it

Wait, strange hands pulling me down 
The land beneath my feet is slippery!
Is this treachery
Is it my own people's tears?
That can't be
Those hands nurtured my young mind

Strength! I have it 
To kick the chains away
Run, faster and wilder towards the light
Towards the dream
Grab my destiny 
Roll over with happiness

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pondering over the life of a non-conformist!

Einstein-His life and universe
Today I set out to deflect from my usual pattern of writing-presenting a book review after I am done with reading a book. The book I am reading now is so engaging and thought provoking that I have taken an unusually long time to complete reading 170 pages of a 550 page hefty book. I will lay out the review in parts, jotting down all the musings I get on reading this book.

I now know Einstein only till he has submitted a paper on 'Special Theory of Relativity'. The present world is engaged in non-stop rant about 'non-conformist' attitude only to follow the coolest dude and big daddy of all non-conformists - Dr. Albert Einstein. Einstein was the epitome of non-conformity since his childhood taking pleasure in maintaining his independent streak of thinking and defying the blind acceptance of any received wisdom much less conceding to authority.

Einstein was a connoisseur of critical thinking from his childhood. In fact he had developed such lucid ability to think early on in his life that he had difficulty to put into words all the wonderful thoughts he had. The world around him thought that he was a slow learner and speaker not knowing the hidden genius inside him that would transform the way world thought of physics. Einstein had problems in keeping up with rote learning at school and was in bad books of almost all the teachers in his college. The child prodigy who went on to study further passed his graduation by being only second last in his class. Even after his graduation he had much difficulty securing a job and earned meagre amount of money by giving private tuitions. He struggled for quite some time to earn a doctorate degree and this uncanny genius of all times did not even secure a professorship anywhere. The great works by him such as providing proof of Brownian motion, ascertaining Galileo's concept of relativity to inertial reference frames through thought experiments, extending Max Planck's 'quanta' concept to the motion of light all came at a time when he worked as a mere third-degree patent officer at Bern, Switzerland.

The eccentric genius was made so by his relentless works in challenging received wisdom. His demeanour earned him many critics and admirers and as with all great men, Einstein too paid little heed to the criticism of either his nature or his works. Reading about Einstein makes one think about all the wrong notions society puts in a child's mind such as following authority, obliging to the old order with humility, never daring to defer et al. I understand the common wisdom that not everyone can be a genius. But wouldn't society benefit from a bunch of more geniuses? I have sworn in to never treat any kid with low expectations and neither curtail it's curiosity to explore. I myself will not shy away from differing with the common norms and doing what I truly believe in. After all the world needs diverse thoughts and not the factory manufactured similar thinkers.

I recently read Walter Isaacson's biography on Steve Jobs and did I get blown away by his writing! Reading another biography from Issacson has reaffirmed by belief that great tales when told by great writers truly create priceless saga. I am awed by the style of writing Isaacson employs in narrating stories of great men. There is a personal touch yet a descriptive life analysis prevails throughout the book. The moral messages author tries to send out are never too elusive and neither hackneyed. The attention to details, research and author's distinctive opinions all make the biography a catching read. Given my electronics background I understood Steve Jobs' biography and the Silicon Valley boom very well. Now that I am reading about scientific advances of the late 20th and early 21st century I am equally enthralled. I was not a staunch fan of scientific history as a student but now having read it in a story form, I have grasped the importance of knowing history in any category - scientific, political, industrial and even religious.

I will now go back to try and understand the remaining heavy scientific jargon of the book. I daresay "Geek is the new sexy".

P.S: I cannot help but make the comparison between Sheldon Cooper's eccentric intelligence and Einstein's diversified genius. I hope Sheldon wins a Nobel Prize soon. :P

The young and super-handsome Einstein
P.S: You can read the next installment of my review here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Allow yourself to be confused

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls while others raise wind mills.
-Chinese Proverb

Most people fix onto their dear self with the fear of changing. They anoint their rigidity to change as 'clarity of future'. The decisions they made years ago and the principles they conceived during easy times become the edifice of their future decisions. This line of thought is divorced from the vision of progress. To achieve anything considerable one is supposed to choose from wide options. I am not up for the argument which says you should avoid confusions and stick to single option quests.

You should let your mind ponder over various paths available. Give your brain some food to think over your aspirations. The emotions you develop during the decision process let you know your true self. Life is not supposed to be a planned calendar. Instead you should always upgrade your dreams. As your capability grows, your dreams must change. Holding onto outdated dreams is like using your favorite old umbrella even after it has holes. It is just not worth your needs.

The options are universe's way to serve you the best things available. It is a chance to grab the best possible dream for you.

Be greedy.

Explore options. Learn about your limitations.

“Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”
-Steve Jobs

Without options you might never know whether you want to join the navy or be a pirate. At the end you will have chosen what really suited your needs. 

Not being pigeon holed and having options frees you from blaming the fate. All the best alternatives will already be available to you.

Trick your mind. Choose crazy whenever possible. Take the leap of faith. 

Don't be monotonous. Spoil yourself by choices. Get the best. Be awesome. 

Plunge into happiness.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: The Oath of the Vayuputras

The Oath of the Vayuputras
Common sense personified

I belong to the cult of Indians who think that every tradition, myth and culture in India holds within it's pith a profound philosophy of life. I never accept any tradition/practice at it's face value and always try to decipher the philosophical code within it. Amish Tripathi seems to have put the saga of a great God in terms of simplistic thinking and logical deductions. The story of Lord Shiva has unfolded in the most natural form of human occurrences. The last book of his trilogy 'The Oath of the Vayuputras' draws a culmination to Shiva's journey in destroying the evil.

The second book in the series, 'The secret of the Nags' ended with Shiva meeting his supposedly dead friend Bruhaspathi in the Naga capital of Panchavati. The third book takes off from the same scene and opens the readers to a frenzy of secrets, explorations, betrayals and wars. All the previous open ended questions find answers here and Lord Shiva will decide what is the evil that is scathing the human race in India. Those who stand by Shiva's proclamation are saved from his wrath and those who do not, face a brutal end by his hands. Shiva mobilizes the armies of Nagas, Brangas, Suryavanshis, Chandravanshis and Vasudevs to wage war against the evil. Will the Vayuputras aid Neelkanth in his holy mission? What is king Daksha's role in the war? Why wasn't the evil unearthed till the Neelkanth came? What is the oath of Vayuputras? - all these mysteries are revealed in the book. 

What is appealing about Amish's third book and the entire series is that the beliefs, traditions and rituals we follow in India are explained in the light of philosophy involved during their origin. The way of life among the characters of the book is nearly utopian and highly logical. The reader cannot help but agree with the simplicity of life. There is only dharma of a person that is the ultimate truth which is true in every sense in that it is what you think of your duties that dictates your actions. There are no superstitions but logic, no magic but scientific knowledge, no treachery but only warriors. The mythological characters which appear in the book are truly justified for their character and behavior. Amish has assumed Shiva to exist around 3000 B.C and hence has put in a dash of middle Asian history into the plot with effortless ease. There are Egyptians and worshipers of Ahura Mazda (early history of Zoroastrianism depicts this) central to the story of this book. The symbolism and science of the Indian mythological beliefs find a new dimension in Amish's simple narration. The war descriptions are especially Amish's forte of excellence. The fierce princess Sati and her son Kartik show the shadow of death to their enemies in every combat. 

The book seems a drag initially until the plot gains a substantial hold on the readers. The emphasis on Meluhan customs, mannerisms is completely lacking from this book. The playfullness of many characters such as Anandamayi, Bhadra hardly surface. The ending is a bit dull and somewhere Shiva becomes far too lenient in forgiving few of the conspirators. Apart from these minor detours from perfection, this third installment of the trilogy provides a successful finish to the Shiva trilogy.

My most favorite part of the book:
The engineering behind many complex instruments, warfare strategies, dams, bridges, construction.

I recommend this trilogy to every Indian for it gives a new perspective in looking at the ancient mythology.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I read a dream

Civil rights soldier
As any other Indian, willingly or unwillingly I have been bombarded with stories of Indian independence struggle and consequently I have an intense sense of pride for belonging to such a land. Freedom in various walks of life which seem so natural to me are earned in hard ways by many humans. One such phenomenon of freedom struggle was 'African-American Civil Rights Movement' led by many and intensified by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the second half of twentieth century. I was completely ignorant of the hardships endured by the black American community until I read the compelling narration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life story as a biography by Roger Bruns. This short account of MLK's life in 150 pages is a sneak peek into the main incidents of African American Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr. 
When Barrack Obama was elected as the President of United States little could I relate with the hysterical emotions running high in the African American community. For if one doesn't know the history of world, then the understanding of today's events gets obscured. I always feel the urge to know in detail the events which have resulted in the suffering of humanity. This book unfolds MLK's struggle to uphold the basic human rights of black community in America and throws light on his journey towards achieving Nobel Prize for Peace. His is not a rags to riches story but his story is that of a great pastor who emerged as the greatest leader of Civil Rights Movement propagating non-violent Gandhian principles. 

Martin Luther King,Jr. arose the black community to raise against the segregation policies followed in America against them. He gave the strength to the sleeping black community to stand on it's able feet and demand the right to live equally among it's white American counterparts. He led them in a journey to end centuries long servile attitude shown towards the black community in America. He guided them to end racial discrimination in public places, education, employment, politics and all other arenas of social life. This book chalks out his journey towards achieving that American dream of equality. Unnerved by the humiliation, violence and apathy he received from the white population of U.S, Martin Luther King led millions of hapless blacks towards their freedom for which he was ultimately assassinated at a young age of 39. Though his death was cruel and untimely it paved way to etch his name permanently in the minds of entire black community who fight against their oppressors. 

The book is succinct with winding up the narration in less than 150 pages and gives the reader a substantial overview of Martin Luther King,Jr's struggle to achieve freedom for the black community. The reader is taken through his childhood, education and rise to fame in a quick but efficient speed. The atrocity of white populace shown on black community is brought out through the description of marches, denial of basic human necessities and inhuman politics. The role of high school students and youth in general in the Civil Rights Movement is brought out thoroughly in the book by the inclusion of major contributions of those young soldiers. The book is a scholarly read with ample references to sources of the text.

I exhort every person to read one of the top most speeches of twentieth century: I have a dream by Martin Luther King, Jr. This is my chance to share with you all the text of this electrifying speech here:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"