Sweet stories

16 04 2010

This week I had the pleasure of reading my first Telugu book of this year  – Poleramma Banda Kathalu by Mohammad Khadeer Babu. And God, what a book it is! It is a collection of 25 stories about 4 friends(boys) in their high school. The stories certainly make one nostalgic about one’s childhood and school days. And they are so hilarious. I usually read most of my books straight-faced, but I couldn’t stop chuckling to myself and often times laughed aloud while reading these awesome sweet stories.

These stories are in fact taken from the author’s life and can be considered as autobiographical.  All the stories take place in Kavali town of Nellore District and the title of the collection alludes to a landmark in the town.

The author has written the book in his native slang of Telugu (Nellore slang) and that makes the stories and also the characters all the more real (of course they are real, but what I meant to say is that the writing makes you connect to them more). Reading the book made me feel like I was watching the scenes from my window. My association with Nellore might also have helped. (Nellore has been my home town since I was in 9th grade.) 😛

It was very aptly compared to the modern Indian classic Swami and Friends by R K Narayan by one lady in the preface of the book.

I recommend this book to all Telugu readers. This one is not to be missed! And kudos to the author. He used to work for Andhra Jyothi (Newspaper & Weekly Magazine) at the time of writing these stories. I think he has also written another series of stories for the magazine, called Dargamitta Kathalu. I vaguely remember reading one of them long time back. Even though I don’t remember anything about it, I’m sure that series rocks too.

Love stories

29 11 2009

In my opinion, love stories appeal to everyone, more so the good ones. Among the many books I’ve read, the following love stories are my favorite:

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

Bridges of Madison CountyI seldom cry on a book and I surprised myself by shedding tears caught up by the passion of Mary and Noah. It’s the most beautiful love story I’ve ever read and which touched me the most. I feel that the way it is narrated by the author, allows you to peep inside their hearts and experience their love for each other. It’s a bit unconventional , being about  a happily married woman in her 40s who finds herself deeply in love with a stranger.

Love Story by Erich Segal

Love means never having to say sorry

Love StoryThis eternal novel needs no introduction.  This is perhaps the first love story that touched my heart.  An unforgettable tale of love, though tragic in the end, Love Story is sure to increase one’s belief in love. Oliver and Jenny’s love is so beautiful that it lingers in one’s heart forever.

The Great Gatsby by Scott. Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyIt’s beautiful, not so because of the story itself but by the author’s prowess in bringing out the characters and their emotions to life. I greatly admired Gatsby and was awed by the intensity of his love for Daisy. I found it extremely touching that he continued to love her until his untimely death.

I wonder whether it’s a coincidence or not that all my favorites are tragic (at least to some extent).   🙂 Well, I can only say that wherever there is love, there is pain too.

Say you’re one of them

5 11 2009

“Say you’re one of them” by Uwem Akpan of Nigeria is the latest pick of Oprah book club. In this début fiction, the author has depicted the disturbing political and/or cultural circumstances prevailing in different countries of Africa. It is a set of five stories and all of them have children as protagonists. Basically the stories portray the children’s view of the events and what they go through.

I haven’t tried any of the Oprah’s book club selections before and have been eager to read one for quite a while. While this fact definitely contributed to my decision to read it, there is one more important reason and that’s the ‘children’ element. I’ve always been drawn towards pieces of literature that feature children and/or childhood and ‘Say you’re one of them’ is not going to be an exception. I might say that the Oprah brand is the entry point – it motivated me to take a look at what the book is actually about. And I must not forget to mention the nice book cover. It appealed to me very much.

Here are the titles and subjects of the five stories:

  1. X-Mas Feast – depicts street life in Nairobi, Kenya
  2. Fattening for Gabon – two kids are sold by their uncle to a pedophile couple in Gabon and this long short story describes what the three of them went through as the kids waited and prepared for their transport to Gabon.
  3. Which language is that? –In this story, two little girls from different families who are very best friends suddenly found themselves refrained from seeing or talking to each other. All this because of the outbreak of an ethnic war between two religions to which each of the families belonged. The girls invent a silent language to communicate with each other in those grave circumstances.
  4. Laughing Hereses – This is another story about ethnic wars between Christians and Muslims; North and South.
  5. My Parent’s Bedroom –The title of the book is derived from this story. “Say you’re one of them”, a mother advises her little daughter in case she finds herself confronted by a savage mob.

The last two stories have lot of violence in them: burning people alive, massacres etc. Though India is not a stranger to such ethnic wars and grotesque incidents, I was really shocked to know about the severity and scale of the happenings in Africa.

All the stories are really touching and invoke deep emotional response. I didn’t know before anything about life and wars in Africa and this book is a real eye-opener for me.

One thing I was not comfortable while reading the book was lot of local language and slangs. Some characters’ dialogue is really hard to understand as the sentences seemed to have no proper structure. For me, they were just like a random jumble of words. Also, there were many words of local language. All these things really frustrated me. While I can guess that the author might have used that style to make the stories as close to reality as possible and to offer readers a taste of Africa, I felt that it came with a cost – readability.

The feel-good factor

10 07 2009

How I Taught My grandmother To Read And Other Stories” by Sudha Murthy is a beautiful book I’ve read recently.  This is my first book of hers and I liked her simple style. Actually, I heard a lot about her other collection of stories, “Wise and Otherwise” and have been trying to find it for a while. When I was browsing through the Landmark store inside the Rajiv Gandhi International airport at Hyderabad, I could not find it, but grabbed two of her other books: Dollar Bahu and the one I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Here, I would like to talk about the author’s “How I taught …” book. It’s a collection of real life stories, which leave you inspired once you are through them. The language is simple and the incidents are taken right from her life. This adds to the worth of that book. But these are not all. In addition to inspiration, I felt something totally different too. I can’t name that feeling but it has to do with the feeling we experience when we encounter with so much “good” and only “good”. In these stories, you’ll  come across so many such incidents and persons: The down-to-earth Dr. Kalam, the inspirational JRD Tata, a successful businessman who help set up schools in his hometown, a child laborer who grows to own a garage inspired by the stories told by a customer (Ms. Sudha herself) etc.  All these stories in turn reflect the compassionate nature and simple-mindedness of the author.

The author provides many thought provoking quotes and life-lessons in the course of her story-telling. Here are the ones I liked most:

  • It is better to be worn out than to be rusted.
  • Excellence does not come by accident but by practice.
  • Whenever you want to give something to somebody, give the best in you, never the second best.
  • Donate without expectation because it is not a gift. It is a duty.
  • Never start with diffidence. Start with confidence. – JRD Tata
  • Your best friend is yourself and your worst enemy is yourself. – Bhagavath Gita
  • Doing what you like is freedom.
  • When you come across difficulties, you have to grow bigger than the problem.

As I was mulling over the good feeling these stories invoked in me,  I recalled one another time I felt the same so long ago. It was when I read a short novel “Karmayogi”. It’s a novel accompanied my Swathi monthly magazine. All the characters in that novel are really good people exhibiting only the positive behavior. In that story, “fate” is the only villain. I felt a sense of tranquility engulf me as I finished reading it and was already looking forward to read it again.

To take this concept a bit further,  I feel the same tranquility and experience that “good” feeling, when I contemplate about God. This correlation is not surprising at all because I manifest God with everything “good”.  I perceive God as the only perfect being in this imperfect world. God is often my retreat during difficult times.

These experiences made me realize, more strongly than ever, the healing and soothing effects of positive things – positive feelings, positive emotions, virtues, ideals etc., in sharp contrast with the negative things and emotions – violence, crime, jealousy, anger, which seem to be everywhere around me and within me.

When you fill your mind with good thoughts and do good deeds and try to be in good surroundings, you’ll feel very light and acquire that peace of mind, which every person continuously tries to achieve.  On the other hand, any negative feeling or thought you entertain would burden you and you become restless.

You often have to spend more time and effort to tell a lie, which is not the case if you choose to speak the truth. It’s easier to love someone than to hate. I tried it, and I tell you:  hating someone really drains your energy, affects your health and of course your peace of mind. Jealousy hinders your progress and does nothing constructive. If anything, it only results in wasting your time and energy.

All this reminds me of Gandhiji’s three monkeys: “Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil”. You can obviously gain so much when you practice it.