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Joanne Rowling


J is for Joanne Rowling or JK Rowling in atozchallenge.

We all grew up listening to lot of fairy tales  –   magic world is always intriguing with the witches and wizards when we were kids.  And i  was convinced that I grew up over years and matured and  transitioned from the fairy tales to fiction and finally to non fiction and philosophy.   I was reading Paulo Cohelo and extracts of Bhagvat Geetha and bingo…. i was again pulled into the magic world of wizards by the great HARRY POTTER series of JK  !!

The intelligence which is built by her into the Harry Potter series is astounding!!!   The characters, the little details, the locations, the incidents, the good over evil  –   she wowed me!!  She just made sure an entire generation of kids returned back to their reading habits and probably the so-called grown ups (like me!)  went back to their world of fairy tales where the good triumphs over evil and got the hope back in life!!!

Goes without saying that her personal life is also an inspiration  –  where she faced multiple disappointments before she became the current famous version of herself –  JK Rowling!!

JK  –  my vote for her in bringing back the hope of good over evil in millions of children and the grown-ups!! And then it made me realize that she has subtly included lot of philosophy into her wrriting  –  some samples below.

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Read more about her and her works in these two links

Ayan Rand & Avvai Patti


Life continues to throw its challenges  –  every time you think you are in deep doldrums, there is something which makes us stabilize and bounce back.   For me,  most of the time it is the people around me  who gets me back up to my crest.   I thought I can use this #AtoZ challenge to list them for a month.  The first ones in the alphabet A are

220px-Ayn_Rand1Ayan Rand  is a Russian American novelist who lived between 1905 to 1982.  More than the novel, her philosophies are what impacted me the most.  If there is one book which any career oriented individual MUST read, then it is FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayan Rand.  Her philosophies are extremely spiritual in nature  –  one of my favorites quote from her is “Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values”

Avvai Patti is a famous Indian Tamil poetess who lived in the Sangam period (13th Century).  While i still have my avvaiown doubts about whether she is a mythical or real character, anyone who studies Tamil is bowled over by her simple profound quotes.  I will always remember Avvai Patti and Aathichoodi for life

Uyir Ezhuthu ஆத்திசூடி English translation
அறம் செய விரும்பு Intend to do right things
ஆறுவது சினம் Anger is momentary; do not take decisions during times of anger (in haste)
இயல்வது கரவேல் Help others based on your capacity
ஈவது விலக்கேல் Never stop aiding
உடையது விளம்பேல் Never boast
ஊக்கமது கைவிடேல் Never give up enthusiasm
எண் எழுத்து இகழேல் Never degrade learning
ஏற்பது இகழ்ச்சி Begging is shameful
ஐயமிட்டு உண் Share what you eat
ஒப்புர வொழுகு Be virtuous
ஓதுவது ஒழியேல் Never stop learning or reading
ஒள ஒளவியம் பேசேல் Never gossip
அஃகஞ் சுருக்கேல் Never compromise in food grains

 

How to get RICH and RETIRE early


I do realize the importance of managing personal finance– drawing the financial wall in my life model is a result of this appreciation.

At the same time, in the recent past, I hardly could keep my attention on any self-help books – call it getting impatient with preaching pals!  And I still go with the view that RICH is a very relative term – Being Happy and at Peace with one-self is Being Rich for me (do people under the same sun sign think this way? I was stumped when I heard a similar definition from the same fellow disguised alien who told me about Moneyball)

Nevertheless, I picked this book with lot of enthusiasm and pride – the author, Rajasekharan had been my colleague in his past corporate avatar and is one of the key enabler of the monthly early morning long walking sessions for a bunch of walking enthusiast like me. And this is the second time one of my friends have published his writing – It was Anitha just last year!

What I like in this book

  1. Caters to a large audience reference book – If you are 20+ and starting your career, you just start your financial planning with this book. If you are middle aged and still have another 15-20 years of salaried service, you still can get inputs to get rich.  If you over the middle age hump-this can still be a quick ready reference in matters of India financial markethow-to-get-rich-and-retire-early-275x275-imadhfd5hbt69ujz
  2. Weaving general leadership principles – “Inaction is costly”, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, “planning is like painting, the more valuable it becomes with more finer details you put in”,  “ financial planning is like going to gym –  got to be regular and long term” (knowing Raj and his love for Stephen Covey, this is not a surprise!)
  3. Excellent clarity
    1. Definition of rich – if your passive income equals your expenses
    2. Focus on basics  –  Long term financial planning is the basis of getting RICH
    3. Simple and easy language
  4. Super simple control diagram charts  –  which says what is RICH and sticks on to your head
  5. Good content flow   –
    1. Part one: makes the reader appreciate and define what RICH means at that individual’s level,
    2. Part two covers the why and how of long term financial planning followed by
    3. Part three which explains the various investment options in India and how to choose them to get an ROI of 15-20%
  6. Though it sounds like a self-help book, Raj has clearly established that each individual’s needs are very different based on their perspective of life – unique is the way he puts it candidly that it is all his views based on his experience
  7. The thorough details on various investment options –Debt, equities, mutual funds, insurance policies, gold, real estate.   The case of Asian Paints is well handled to enable even the beginners to understand and appreciate the intricacies of equities market

What I look for in the next edition

  1. Soft version of all the reference tables (a CD with the book)
  2. Consolidation of all questions at the end of each chapter
  3. A followup workshop based on this book –  I had the opportunity to be present in Raj’s book promotion session and I felt he can build a workshop based on this which will help many
  4. Hard bound cover  –  this is a book which can stay in the reference section for years to come
  5. Some more proof reading

City of Gods


It has been a long time since i picked a fiction to read –  I have been reading lot of non-fiction books  – I have not completed reading even one single non-fiction book in the last few  months (Reason why the last couple of my book reviews are fiction books),  have been jumping from one to another!.  So,  I surprised myself when I picked up this fiction and completed over a weekend in-between my busy weekend house chores!   Obviously, the motivation is to make sure that I read the two short stories written by AM is also published in that ….and the feather on the cap is that the collection is named after one of her short stories heading “City of Gods”

This collection of short stories from various Indian authors (was it dominated by south Indian authors?) had a mix of all genre of stories – love, horror, humor, humanity …..all 22 had different flavors –  some of them were very impactful, few were very flowery –  lot of descriptions and less of story.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the read  –  here is a short review of few samples as I looked at it

1.Stranger Anxiety by Vrindha Baliga :  Very realistic and emotional.  I can relate to the father daughter relationship and the father granddaughter chemistry…..and the advent of facebook into the lives of older generation!

2. The pullover by Thomas K Abraham:  A short episode clearly brings out the feelings of children who are in boarding school –  will dosa tree grow from a dosa?  though it was laced with slight humor, this story left me remembering my childhood  –  to discipline my brother and I, my father use to threaten that he will put us in a boarding school if we miss to behave well  –  we truly believed he will do so and were terrorized at times! 🙂

3.The Death of a Martyr by Dhiraj Kumar Deka:  Sad story of a father losing his son on the India border while he was saving our India.  The story made me think of the many jawans who laid their life saving our mother India.  Inspiring and also emotional!

4. The Holiday by Anitha Murthy:  A very pragmatic approach  –  what kind of adjustments every individual makes to go with the choice of brain Vs the choice of your heart??   Anitha is indeed a captivating story teller.

5. The Betrayl by Vibha Batra:  Story set in pre independence period and captures the interpersonal challenges in the bigger picture of country and politics  –   what is saddening is that even today, (65 years post independence) these challenges exist all over.

6.Maya by Tripta Roy – A very touching emotional story  –  how much does an individual need to comprise if they have to prioritize the joys of motherhood…. I am sure there are crores of women/men around the world who make these comprises to be a good parent  –   whether it is a good decision or a bad decision is something which is always debatable  –  it may sometimes be better to stick to reality and let the children understand it?

7. Rage by Shiva Viswanathan:  Very convincing justification on why a teenager ends up as a destroyer  –  RAGE captures it all.

8. The Master  by Shalim M Hussain  –   A story on North East India’s struggle  –  For some reason, I could not make myself read this story –  do not know if the current NE exodus episode in India had made me get an overdose of NE struggles.IMG-20130202-161

9. The Fix by Saritha Roa Rayachoti –  Finally a romantic story  –   a story which gives the positive changes brought in by discovering one own self.  Coffee was just a reason though!

10.  The strings by Nandini Rao  –  Another story which I could not read beyond couple of paragraphs  –   there were more and more of descriptions and me being a non scholastic English reader, just had to skip it. Not my cup of tea.

11. The writer by Revathi Siva Kumar –  A very depressing story line.  the short fiction itself was very well written and delivered and the characters were in front of my eyes .  I felt it was a seasoned writer’s creative writing  –  it was author’s victory to make the reader feel for the characters in the story.  Good work.

12.Role Play by Aruna Shenoy –  Very pragmatic theme and well written  –  every day dilemma of young Indian working women  and how they conquer it  –   Role play is A grade!

…….a good collection for the intelligent readers…. and thank you Anitha!

Women and Literature


When I saw the invite for the book publishing event in my mail box from Anitha, I wanted to go.  Two reasons  –  Anitha is one of the persons whom I can just sit for hours together without even talking much and feel completely at ease;   two of Anitha’s prize-winning short stories are part of the book which was published that day.

While I had never been to this kind of event before, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  I reached the event little late  (they had already published the book which Anitha said is the main event!), I think I was present for the best part of it  –  reading the extracts from the stories which were published in that book.

I was mesmerized when one of the women rendered a paragraph from Anitha’s story  –  I could not believe that such a voice modulation, clarity and emotion can all be brought in by anyone  –  especially a frail looking women. I just wanted to sit there and listen to her reading all the stories from that book for ever.

Anitha updated me that it was Jyoti Makhija, one of the famous theatre personalities in Bangalore.  It also stuck me later that majority of the participants  (including the audience) were women  –  women who gave a feeling that they are intellectual, who are matured and mostly over 50.  It again reiterated the fact that women have more interests in life as a group and still want to believe in fiction.

ps-I was highlighting that I was impressed that lot of women are interested in english literature.  I got an immediate response “Women do all the running round.  Men sit and write”  I liked the intended pun from Anitha on this!!   🙂 🙂

Related Post:  Congratulations

Revolution 2020 – Chetan Bhagat


One look at the cover page  –  you have the entire story  –  love (three angles), corruption and ambition.  Feels like Chetan wrote this with the inherent plan to make it a straight Bollywood masala  –  I can actually imagine the actors in the lead roles to be  Neil Nitin Mukesh (good guy), Amy Jackson  and Shah Rukh Khan(extremely good bad guy)……………  🙂

Chetan can do much better –  even his newspaper articles have more thought and effort from Chetan than this!  Am not discounting that it is a good masala with the right mix of all required ingredients for a commercial Bollywood movie, but then……..Chetan can have much tougher goals?  The ramblings on AIEEE and IIT JEE is getting a bit too much after all his earlier novels……..so is the standard love story theme….!!

Now that Chetan has covered the first five numerals  –  One night at a call center, Two states, The three mistake of my life, R2020 (add the twos to make it four) and Five point someone……….time for him to breakaway and handle different subjects!!

You will read and like it if you like masala fiction!  Entertaining!

Shiva Trilogy 1:The immortals of Meluha – Amish


I bought this book only at the third try –

First time, when I spotted it in Crosswords at Bangalore Airport, it was the cover which captured my attention – I glanced through the summary and the  review on the back cover – When I read the two line review in the back cover  from Business world “Amish……. is well on his way to becoming the Paulo Coelho  of the east…”, I started contemplating –  Should I drop the already selected “I have a Dream  – Rashmi Bansal” and go for this book –  I may get time only for one  book during the travel…..!!!   Given that Rashmi Bansal was already recommended by Shiva himself (it is my friend’s name,  pun intended though!), I decided for her book.

Second time, I got an offer from a blog community to review the two books of the Shiva Trilogy (second one is “The secret of Nagas”). If I agree to review and post the review in my blog, the blog community will ship  those two books to me free of cost.  I  was tempted but there was a catch –  they  wanted the review to be completed within 15 days…I just dropped this offer, given  that I do not even know if I will like this book to make me read the second one  ….and 15 days is  too short for my speed!!

Third time, we were in Landmark and picking some books on my kid’s birthday…while both the kids were skimming through the rows of book, I  was doing my rounds and saw this book again…the cover continued to seek attention…and then I saw this 3 for 2 offer in landmark………..and this came as  the third one…..though it is reasonably priced at Rs. 195/-, getting something  free makes a feel good factor……and finally I got it.

Given that I got it over a weekend, I started reading it  immediately and at the middle of first chapter, I WAS HOOKED.  Not sure if it was the influence of the  review comparing Amish with Paulo Coelho OR it is the effect of living in a  Temple town of Siva for a considerable part of my life and  being  in the family of shiva worshippers, I took to fancy this setting.  The story is set in 1900 BC, what is the era  of Indus valley civilization.  The  settings are very familiar if you know the history and geography of North  India  –  Mansarovar lakeMount Kailash,  Srinagar, Hariyuppa (Harappa), Mohan jo daro, Karachapa (Karachi?), Devagiri,  Ayodha,  Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi,  Beas, Sutlej, Yamuna, Sarayu, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Narmada.  The characters are again very familiar  for all who would have heard Indian mythology  –  Siva, Sati, Daksha, Nandi, Lord Ram,  Brahaspathi, Veerabhagu,….

So, what is new?

I think it is the way Amish has treated the subject  –  he  has the right mix of action, love and adventure which is required for a  fiction, used facts from religion and folklore and has the right mix of mythology and history, and then……….the messages for the reader, through the all-powerful character Shiva (which probably gets an edge of advantage over other characters) ….every passage is open to interpretation………and makes it interesting  to  contemplate on the facts  –  Few of the notes from this book depicting the interesting mixture…

SPIRITUALITY:  Siva  himself advocates that, God is everywhere.  When asked about his belief in God, Siva responds “I don’t believe in  symbolic Gods.  I believe that the real God exists all around us.  In the flow of the river, in the rustle of the trees, in the whisper of winds,.  He speaks to all of us all the time. All we need to do it listen.”

“His burden did not feel any lighter.  But he felt strong enough to carry it.”

“They are not evil. They are just different.”

HEALTH AND SCIENCE: When Amish shares the  Oxygen/anti-oxidants theory  (refer “Radical Proposal” by Kathryn Brown in Scientific Americana) it gels so well with the story and the context ….  “  What keeps us alive?  Energy is a fundamental thing to keep us alive.  We use energy  when we do anything.  This energy comes  from food we eat.  Food stores energy, which we can expend in our body.  The conversion of food to energy in our body is done by the air we breathe.  Oxygen in air helps to release energy from  food. The very thing which keeps us alive is also what causes us to age and eventually die.  When oxygen reacts with food to release energy, it also releases free radicals called oxidants which are toxic.  Any fruit left outside rot as the oxidants react with it. We also rust from inside out and age and die.  Body stores food/water – you can survive  without food for few days or few days of thirst will not kill you.  But body does not store oxygen, the most crucial component of staying alive.  The explanation is that body realises that despite being an elixir, oxygen is also a poison.

LOVE:  When Daksha  says  “Man has the intense desire to impress the person he loves most”, it is justified why he is hoping Siva will marry Sati.

WOMAN:  This is a stunner …when even experienced intelligent souls are struggling to understand woman,  this simple definition really fits the requirement well – if only all men understand this secret….”The most powerful force in a woman’s life is the need to be appreciated, loved and cherished for what she is”

SOCIETY:  This is in line with what I went across my mind in the context of marriage Vs Osho’s suggestion.   Amish consolidated it well “What any successfully society needs is “Flexibility with Stability”.  Flexibility is required because every single person has different dreams and capabilities. Flexibility in a society allows change3, so that all its members have the space to discover their true selves and grow to their potential. And if every person in a society achieves his true potential, society as a whole also achieves its true potential. Society must remain stable so that we don’t put each other in a situation of having to fight for survival. People can pursue their dreams only when they are living in a society where survival is not a daily threat.

The lengthy description of some of the events could have been more crispy and would have helped to keep up the tempo……………..Nevertheless,  a  decent book to read!

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho


Alchemist

Honestly, this is the second time i am reading the book. I read it five to six years back and just remember that it was a DIFFERENT book. I remember that i did not completely get deeply into the book, but read it and felt it had something which i was not able to relate.

Again, when i picked up this book this time, it really made me read some pages again and again – the depth of the concept was amazing. I am not telling that my grey matter has become much heavier in the last 6 years :). I think i have become more open to see others views – more patient to see the world as it stands and that makes me understand this book much better than what i did the first time. I somehow also get a feeling that in another five years i may get to understand these books much differently than what i do now.

Today, this book evokes in me a unexplainable peace, a confidence on self, a confidence on life -reinforcement that things will go as we want it to go (sounds like James Allen‘s “As a man thinketh“). It reinforces that every small thing / person in this world is part of a bigger scheme. As individuals, we need to listen to our heart and when we honestly make a try to reach towards our destiny, all the things fall in place and make us reach our destiny.

The book can be a looked at as a guide in management training, self-development, and what not?

It reiterates the importance of Love in everyone’s life – loving the world is more important for oneself . Betterment in Love  is a great concept. “When we love, we always strive to become better than what we are. When we strive to become better than what we are, everything around us becomes better, too”

The book is a short story – this is how i looked at it 6 years back. The book is still narrating a story, after all. But the pearls of wisdom in the story are for the reader to pick and cherish.

It goes with my belief when Coelho talks about the “Beginner’s luck” and Principle of Favourability. He says “When people are young, they know what their destinies are. People are capable at any time in their lives of doing what they dream of.” He also says “Every search begins with the beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victors being severely tested”.

Many similar thoughts when it came to the analysis of fear..

  • There is only one thing which makes a dreamimpossible to achieve – the fear of failure.
  • The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.
  • Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the language of the world
  • People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.

He reiterates the fact that we are all part of a bigger scheme of things – “All things are the manifestation of one thing only. Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected and we are able to know everything because it’s all written there”

The importance of living in present (FISH is a good book to read on this) is covered well ……..

If you concentrate always on the present, you will be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a great festival because life is the moment we are living right now.

The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to present, you can improve upon it. And if you improve on the present what comes later will also be better. When we strive to become better than what we are, everything around us becomes better too. When we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”

I am leaving this review open as I strongly believe that I have more to learn in this short book with the years to come.

Reading – made a joy!   God bless! 🙂

One Minute Mother – Spencer Johnson


  • Author – Spencer Johnson
  • Category – Self Help
  • My rating – 3 on 5

Yes!  It is a self-help book on parenting!

For me, parenting is a mixture of science and art   –   and you never end being a parent irrespective of whatever age your kids are!!  This short book from Spencer Johnson (author of many “one minute” series) reinforces that there are still few facts out there about parenting which can be put to use effectively in day-to-day parenting.

The book is designed to be a short story where an young mother-to-be goes in search of the secrets about good parenting.   She meets with an elderly woman who is the “one minute mother” and her daughters to collect the wisdom of being an effective mother.    The basics of human psychology are established when the author says “Children who like themselves like to behave themselves”.   This is followed by the sharing of the three communication secrets which helps to be a “one-minute-mother”.

  1. One minute goals  (Goal is a dream with deadline)
  2. One minute praising   (Catch them doing something right)
  3. One minute reprimand (Feedback is the breakfast of champions)

As a parent, it makes lot of sense to develop the sense of responsibility in our children and help them reach their full potential.   It takes lot of effort and  will to persevere through the challenging situations in parenting and keep our sanity.  Johnson highlights the importance of being in balance when he writes “The best way for a mother to keep her sanity is to keep her sense of humor”.   Can’t agree more here  🙂

While the following tips hold good for any interpersonal relationships and mentoring, Johnson highlights and fits them rightfully into the parenting tips

  1. Teach children to like themselves and to like to behave themselves.  Enjoy yourselves in that process
  2. Set goals and praise and reprimand bad behavior ( tell them they are good, their behaviour was bad)
  3. Speak simple truth and express feelings clearly
  4. Hug your children and laugh often and show them you love them
  5. Encourage children to do as you do (be a living example)
  6. Pay attention to many little things that make life more enjoyable
  7. It is more important to start right away the right things than is to wait until we think we can do it right
  8. We become what we think about
  9. All things are ready if our minds be so
  10. Anxiety is fear of unknown and fear immobilizes people

The crux of the book remains in the fact that good parenting is ensuring that your children become independent and do right things by themselves.   “When the children are caught doing something right, they want to do something right again (one minute praising). It makes them feel good about themselves. And children who like themselves like to behave themselves. So, instead of behaving for their parents, they do it for themselves”

Given it is a short book  (100 pages +) and written like a story, it is worth spending some time to read through it – helps young parents and also the veteran parents (to revise the facts!!). 

Paths of Glory – Jeffrey Archer


  • Author – Jeffrey Archer
  • Category – Fiction
  • My rating – 3.5 on 5

The reading becomes more interesting with the knowledge on the life of George Mallory.  So, before you start on the book, try on this link.

With an understanding of the background and the real characters, and given that the story is about man’s conquest of Mother Nature, it sure makes an interesting read.

While the main storyline glorifies man’s quest to conquer nature, there are two distinctive key themes –

GENDER INCLUSIVITY

Archer seems to be aware of the one of key basic factor which improves the  QUALITY OF LIFE  –  giving equal status to the fellow human being, irrespective of the gender.

It is still a challenging achievement for many  –   talking about gender equality is one thing and practicing gender inclusivity(!!!) is another thing!.   Archer has well woven the gender inclusivity concepts into the story at appropriate places. The sample conversation between George and his father goes like this……

  •  Qtn  –  “why aren’t girls given the same opportunity as boys”
  • Ans -“it is not the natural order of things, my boy”
  • Qtn – “And who decides the natural order of things??”

!!!!!

CHALLENGES OF BEING THE LADY BEHIND A SUCCESSFUL MAN

Archer has very well articulated on what goes in the mind of a woman, who loves a man so much and contemplates on holding on to him or letting him go to fulfill his dream  –   clear logical conclusions are well narrated……….

“ I would rather have spent two years on earth with one of the most exiting men on earth, than forty with someone who thought I had prevented him from fulfilling his dream”

“you sould not stand in the way of his destiny.  If he were to see some lesser mortal achieve his dream, it could be you who spends the rest of your life regretting it”

Overall, the curiosity of manhood to explore nature has been well laid out in the descriptions of Mount Everest  (the other lady!!).  The story has the right concoction of romance, gender equality, history and the suspense to keep the readers hooked to it.

Good read!

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