Book Review : Joy 24×7

This book captures some of the philosophical sayings of Sadhguru, founder of the Isha foundation, on abstract and elusive themes of happiness and success. In order to review this book, it would only be apt to quote few passages I liked the most :)

Miserable people have  passed off as intelligent people in the world, because they have miserable questions and complications in their minds

One of the main reasons why you have become miserable is, instead of falling back into your Joy, you are trying to pursue Joy

First you must have an existence and then being joyful arises.Right now, you’re just a reflection of the society in which you live, there’s no such thing as you in this.Only an individual can know Joy

All the time, your one and only problem and the very basis of your misery is that life is not happening the way you think it should be happening

Greed is very relative.In your perception, you are never greedy.Somebody else who has reached a place where you aspire to get is greedy.

When people are joyful, they must look at life with great depth; but when they are happy, they live frivolously.Something has to go dead wrong in their life for them to look deeper.

If you are a truly joyful person, no exploitation can ever touch you. Only a miserable person is constantly thinking as to who will exploit them

Thinking about something is not worrying, you better think about things clearly; but going on thinking about the same thing is worry

Joy will not happen if you change the Content of your life; it will only happen if you change the Context of your life.

Amen :)

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Book Review: Lajja

Yes I used to call myself a human being, and I believed in humanism. But these Muslims did not let me stay human. They made me a Hindu.

Lajja is written by the fiery religious activist Taslima Nasreen from Bangladesh. Apparently this book was penned in just 7 days as claimed by the author.It is a work of fiction but set in a non-fictional background with the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition on 6th December, 1992 providing the historical background.

Lajja portrays in great depth and detail the agony and the anguish which the Hindu populace of Bangladesh had to endure after the Babri Masjid was brought down by Hindu fanatics in India. Ms. Nasreen weaves a plot involving the Dutta family and how the communal riots turn them from communists and nationalists to awkwardly assertive Hindus.The story culminates with the family reluctantly deciding to leave their beloved homeland and migrate to India.

This novel had been on my to-read list for a long time. But by the time I had leafed through the first 10 pages, I was convinced that the only claim to fame Lajja had was it’s controversial nature. A plain and simple plot is further let down by average narration, copious amounts of irrelevant historical details and an undisguised prejudice on the part of the author.The book lacks a balance and is extremely one-sided and judgemental.

But despite all it’s obvious shortcomings, Lajja brings to light the tragedy of the Hindu minority in a country growing increasingly Islamist, despite the secular credentials of it’s constitution. It also helps one understand the recent faceoff between the liberalists and radicalists of Bangladeshi society following a court sentence against some key Jamaat-e-Islami leaders.I would recommend reading this book not for the accuracy of it’s facts but for understanding it’s underlying theme from a ground-zero perspective.

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Book Review : Difficult Daughters

No points for guessing why I picked up this book :) . Probably any young independent woman belonging to a traditional middle class family will identify easily with just the title of the book i.e if books were to be judged by their titles alone :) . Nevertheless, Difficult Daughters proves to be a good read with a racy plot set in the backdrop of India’s partition.

This novel is authored by Manju Kapur, who is a faculty in Miranda House, Delhi and references to whom I found in the Facebook wall of  one of my Miranda friends. The story explores the role of education in the life of Virmati, the main protaganist and her illicit relationship with a married Professor.The Professor falls in love with his student Virmati and inspires her to pursue higher education. He however lacks the guts to break free from his loveless marriage.Virmati, who is portrayed as more gullible but stronger of the two, declines another proposal for an arranged marriage, and hence draws the ire of her entire family.Her intellectual pursuits are as much marked by courage as marred by the sexual crave of her spineless lover and the lack of emotional support from her family. And the conclusion can neither be described as happy or sad, but difficult at best.

Though times are changing and our society is increasingly becoming more forward, marriage and not education is still considered as the ultimate goal in the life of a girl. Our society is still averse to the idea of an independent woman. And choosing to be an independent woman most often comes with a price. Though this is a work of fiction, the themes explored in the novel are very much real social issues.And all I can say is that anyone who is proud to be a woman or considers herself as a feminist even in the most subtlest of fashions, would definitely love this book :)

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Book Review : Untouchable

This was my first novel by the legendary Mulk Raj Anand.As the title suggests, the story revolves around the untouchable or the Harijan community of India and is set in the backdrop of British India.The author paints a very humane and poignant picture of a jamedar by the name of Bakha, and the discrimination he faces on account of his lower caste status.The story decribes a single day in the life of Bakha and all the trials and tribulations he has to overcome as he goes about his work of cleaning the latrines and sweeping the streets. While during the first half of the day he only receives a barrage of abuses and inhuman treatment, the latter half of the day actually brings a glimmer of hope as Bakha is confronted with three choices that can improve his life.

Reading about Untouchability in history books is one thing; reading this novel quite another. The story is eye-opening and leaves one feeling deeply sympathetic to the plight of  harijans and at the same time indignant at the inhuman behaviour of their perpetrators.I guess the most shameful incident in the book is when someone accidently touches Bakha in a busy street; he receives abuses and a beating and then for the remaining way, he has to warn others by shouting  ”posh, posh Sweeper coming”.

Reading this novel has left me with the impression that Mulk Raj Anand could be the Premchand of English literature.Though the story lacks a plot, a lot of attention is given to detail.Read this if you are a fan of Premchand or if you have a soft corner for social issues.


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Book Review : Train to Pakistan

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

This 1956 novel by Khushwant Singh is set in the backdrop of the gruesome killings on the India Pakistan border that followed in the wake of partition.I always wanted to read a fictional story based on those times as the factual accounts are themselves a tad boring. This was also my first novel from Khushwant Singh.I must admit I have never been a great fan of his columns that used to come every weekend in The Telegraph (which was otherwise much appreciated by my Mom), but this novel has converted me into an ardent fan of the author.

Train to Pakistan has it all; all that’s required by a novel to become a  good read. A good plot, an awesome narrative, very well sketched and above all real characters, and raw emotion. Along the newly charted India Pakistan border is a small sleepy village inhabited by Sikhs and Muslims that has escaped the brutality and horrors of inter-caste killings that’s otherwise rampant in other villages.The trains running to and fro between India and Pakistan form a significant part of the village life. But this peace is threatened when a ghost train from Pakistan halts at the village. The main plot highlights the camrederie between the Sikhs and the Muslims of the village and how it stands the test of time. The other subplots deal with a Sikh goonda in love with a Muslim girl, a cunning District Commissioner having a fling with a muslim prostitute who is young enough to be his daughter,a Communist Party intellectual having the confusing name Iqbal who comes to the village to exhort the villagers to fight for their rights against the administration, and how the villain of the village ultimately saves the day and turns out to be it’s bravest hero.

This book does not have a single dull moment and you will be turning the pages with only increasing impatience and curiosity as the many plots unfold. A must read!!

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