The one where I announce my Bungee Jumping

This is the one in which I announce that I am taking a break, from work. By work, I mean the humongous and boring definition of it – you know, the kind where you go to an office, pretend to be busy while you are busy checking memes on facebook, reply to a few emails, analyze random data and manufacture a trend to impress everybody around. The kind where you pretend to be a boss and bark out orders to your juniors every two hours in the name of that fanciful word called delegation. The one where orders get barked down upon you, to continue that slavery. So yes, I am taking a break from all of that. No, I am not quitting to travel around the world by myself and no, I am not having a nervous breakdown. What I mean to do is solve my existential crisis – I want to ‘work’ on things I like, and give writing a shot (This is the new millennial trend – taking a break, by the way, although I am hardly your typical millennial). Or, you can also think of this as bungee jumping, in some weird way!

Image Source

Currently, this website looks like an abandoned haunted cottage – totally out of some sad novel with a lackluster theme. Sometimes, it looks like a place you want to check out because you think it would be cool to meet some ghosts but it turns out to be a disappointing trip. Sadly, this ghost of a writer rarely visits.

What it needs to be is a happy little home where you want to visit as often as you can, see interesting things, loll about in the gardens, read about books and maybe make friends with some birds of the same feather. So yes, this is one of the ‘things I like’ and should see a face lift soon.

You’d think it’s probably foolish – I should have tried to do all these things along with work, sacrifice a bit of sleep and then decide whether this is really what I want. Yes that would have been wise, but I was never such a wise person. What is life if you don’t take a few risks? And this is hardly a risk, I am still pretty much employable. However there comes a time when you are not happy with the status quo. It’s like wanting to take a U-turn on the road at a busy intersection but not really trying for fear of the other cars, rushing fast ahead. Do you keep waiting patiently, growing frustrated with each passing minute because you are stuck? Or do you slowly inch your away ahead, silently challenging the other cars to stop and give you some quota of the space on the road? So here I am – I have given in to this with full abandon, with a will to put my heart and soul into this. Churn out words every day with the hope of writing a novel soon.

But it’s not easy. The other day, I kept staring at a blank page for at least half an hour. My mind seemed to be blank. What do I write about, I thought? I started writing a few lines and then deleted them. I repeated that same action a couple of times and then banged the laptop shut. You’d think actions and words are the true empowering things in this world but it’s actually sleep that tops all the other empowering stuff. It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon and although I never sleep at any time during the day, except at night, I gave in to the urge to procrastinate.

Luckily, I happened to open the lock to my bookshelf. The book ‘Stuff I’ve been reading’ by Nick Hornby seemed to stare at me, perfectly at eye level. Sometime ago, the book had inspired me to start a blog with the same theme. About books I’ve bought and books I’ve read, my thoughts on how good some of them were and how some of them failed to resonate (for every book is a work of art – even Chetan Bhagat, although he belongs to the mass produced art for everyday variety – too lowly for our snobbish noses). I am no Nick Hornby but all I wanted to do was write about my favorite thing in this entire world.

I still want to do that and I’ve been oscillating with the books that I mean to start reading and writing about. I started reading ‘Yes Please’ by Amy Poehler in my kindle app, just because of the introduction – where she writes about how difficult it is to write a book, how the process is painful and not as easy as it looks. That caught my attention and I ended up reading her book till the part where the chapter on coping with divorce started. I do not understand why the chapters are so scattered, or was there a problem with the e-book? I browsed through this dump of eBooks collected by a friend and started reading the Pulitzer winning book, ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker. The punctuation seemed off, with a question mark in place of a name of a key character and I did not understand whether this was the actual text (like in Forrest Gump) or the e-book was just messed up? I felt as if I was reading a pirated copy of a book and I abandoned it. Lately, I have also been feeling guilty about downloading books for free from the internet, since now I am an aspiring writer and all that!

Quickly I subscribed to a Kindle Unlimited plan for a month, and was sorry to see that many books that I wanted to read were not included in the catalog. However, at Rs. 199 for a month, it is still a very good deal. I downloaded ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ by Amish Tripathi into my Kindle library, hoping to see whether I had missed the bus by not reading this much-hyped story when it first became a hit. And no, I haven’t started it yet because now I have ended up buying other books yesterday in a fit of reckless shopping (and got some good bargains!) from Om Book Shop in DLF Promenade, Vasant Kunj.

So yes, I haven’t managed to finish a single book after The Farewell Waltz, but I hope that shall soon change. Until then, please bear with reading some boring bits about my life, which I just have to write about, nowadays. And yes, if you have a copy of The Color Purple, please be a nice person and lend it to me!

Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera and how I waltzed my way through it

I finished reading Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera yesterday night. Now, I have dozed off while reading this book on numerous occasions and this is what happened yesterday also, as I was trying to race my sleep to the finish. Unfortunately, my sleep got the better of me and I think I dozed off when five pages were left. I awoke with a start at 1 am, finished the rest of the book and went to sleep with a deep satisfaction, of having finally finished reading. Quite frankly, I have been struggling to finish this since a month and no, this is not the fault of the book or the author.  Both, my general mood lately and my treatment of this book have been undeserving and unfair, for a writer of Kundera’s calibre. This was definitely not a waltz, although I am fairly nonchalant about bidding farewell.

Source : Amazon.co.uk
Source : Amazon.co.uk

This is not the first book which Milan Kundera has written. This is also not the first book that I have read, from this author. I remember reading ‘Laughable Loves’ a long time back. I had to search the list of books written by Kundera to remember the title. And then I got confused for a second, was it ‘Laughable Loves’ that I’d read, or was it ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’.  It took me a while to be sure (I googled the book covers, just to confirm, such is the sorry state of my poor mind – feels like a travesty). I also tried to remember what that book made me feel – I guess I was trying to compare both my experiences. All I could remember was that, somehow, ‘Laughable Loves’ had left me with a better feeling, a feeling of somewhere some profundity hitting me, at the right places. I guess I was subconsciously looking for the same experience to be repeated, when I picked this up from The Oxford Bookstore at Connaught Place. When you’ve enjoyed one book borne by an author, you tend to have greater expectations, from another child of theirs, don’t you?

‘Farewell Waltz’, on the other hand, leaves me with no feeling.  It’s not that Kundera says nothing intelligent, or that it’s badly written. It is good writing that should have hit me; however I was disaffected, largely due to the treatment of the female characters in the book, I think. That overshadowed the good feelings that I may have received at many places in the book, leaving me nonchalant.

Kamila, Olga and most importantly Ruzena, who is one of the main characters and whose behaviour accounts for most of the plot and the story line, are reduced to comic figures. It’s not that the men aren’t. They are equally absurd. The book essentially points out the absurdity in human nature, using the characters who are all archetypes of one kind or the other. However, I do not know why that irked me – the reduction of the female characters. Perhaps because of the stark nature in which it reminds you of the weaknesses of female minds – and no, this is in no way related to their ability to do math or design a rocket – it’s more to do with how we think with our emotions, of how beauty as a standard is still so important for us to feel better, or how we look at male attention as a measure of our worth, also how that is used as a manipulation tool, both sincerely and insincerely, by men and women alike.

The book is also a caricature on how men react to situations. Klima, Skreta, Bertlef and Jakub – they are all experts at manipulation. And they all have their own justification for the things they do – right or wrong, whether it be having a one night stand, cheating on their wife, or slipping poison into somebody’s medicine box, even if by accident. They are all vain men, especially Bertlef and Jakub. While Bertlef is overtly vain, Jakub is vain under the surface, placing too much importance on the reason for his presence on planet earth. I did like how Kundera nullifies his ego, which is tragic, because he seeks to do the same by making him feel as he was meant to feel that way, deeply satisfying his ego in some perverse manner, at the same time. However, at the end of it, while it may have been a happy ending for mostly everybody except Ruzena, Jakub seems to be only other loser in the whole situation.

Overall, I do think that I could have read this book with greater attention and more enthusiasm. However, not my fault, if it failed to create the same in me. Dissatisfaction with a book is similar to feelings left in you after a failed relationship. You can only blame yourself for it till some time, after a point, you realize how some things just aren’t meant to be!

Book Review: The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth

The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth has been a much awaited book, especially for fans of the thriller genre. The only other book by Forsyth that I have read is The Fist Of God and I found it to be quite interesting. Reading it was like stepping into another world altogether, a covert world which is unfamiliar for common citizens of this world.

While The Fist of God was a story set in the Persian Gulf War, The Kill List features the war against terrorism. There exists the Kill List, a very secret list of the top terrorists to be captured and assassinated by American Government Agencies, at all costs. The story sees ‘The Preacher’ being added to this list and follows the chase by American agencies to find his identity and capture him. Now, the ‘Preacher’ is a terrorist who brainwashes Muslim men around the world, to assassinate ‘non believers’. A series of killings by different Muslim men bring this dreaded terrorist to the attention of high level agencies and US Marine Kit Carson is entrusted with the responsibility of eliminating him.

images

Coming to my thoughts on the book, I felt that the story was appropriately fast and would satisfy most readers of this genre. However, this is not the best of Forsyth’s writing. The Fist of God was so much more interesting and had so many twists and turns. This book on the other hand, just seemed predictable. It’s the usual thriller, not really too much different in tone and style. Good to read ? Yes. But, spectacular ? Definitely not.

About the book: The Kill List | Frederick Forsyth | Random House India | Fiction | 352 Pages | Rs. 399.

Note: A copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Random House India, to me.

Book Nook #1: Spell & Bound Bookshop & Cafe, New Delhi

“In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro.”
(Everywhere I have sought peace and not found it, except in a corner with a book.)

There are always places that make you feel comfortable and cozy, enough to encourage a person to read and quietly reflect upon myriad things in life. On a chance, it may lead to something special, with the person writing a line or two of verse, in honor of life and it’s various machinations.

One such place is the Spell & Bound Bookshop & Cafe in New Delhi. I stumbled on to this place when I was visiting the IIT Delhi Campus for work, last week. It’s a small book store and cafe in the market opposite the IIT Campus Main Gate.

Here are some pictures:

The store has books of every genre and recommendations on every shelf. Many recommendations were the same as ones I have read (or reviewed on this website) and liked. The food and beverages are also not very expensive. The beverages are served in very cute bottles and the food tastes quite nice. On the whole, it’s a quiet place where one can go and sit in a corner, check out a lot of books, read some and leave with a nice, satisfied feeling in the stomach.

Check it out sometime, if you are somewhere near the IIT campus. Or if you’ve gone there sometime, do leave a comment with your experience. 🙂

Also, I am starting a new feature called ‘Book Nook’, where I feature a particularly nice book store or  book cafe, periodically. If you’re a regular visitor at some really cool places, do send in your recommendations and they shall get featured on this website. 🙂