Non fiction favourites

Dear reader,
I have always leaned alot more towards non-fiction books but you know they are not always success stories, sometimes they are stories of the most horrific things you could ever read and you cannot shrug it off as “just a book” because you know it’s true. You form a wierd bond the characters as the book unfolds you get to know real people and their lives.

Here are my top 5 nonfiction books that have made a lasting impact on me and I highly recommend.

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.

In 1942, with the Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and surprisingly humorous, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo — to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.



Spanning the globe and several centuries, The Gene is the story of the quest to decipher the master-code that makes and defines humans, that governs our form and function.
The story of the gene begins in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856 where a monk stumbles on the idea of a ‘unit of heredity’. It intersects with Darwin’s theory of evolution, and collides with the horrors of Nazi eugenics in the 1940s. The gene transforms post-war biology. It reorganizes our understanding of sexuality, temperament, choice and free will. This is a story driven by human ingenuity and obsessive minds – from Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel to Francis Crick, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, and the thousands of scientists still working to understand the code of codes.
This is an epic, moving history of a scientific idea coming to life, by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies. But woven through The Gene, like a red line, is also an intimate history – the story of Mukherjee’s own family and its recurring pattern of mental illness, reminding us that genetics is vitally relevant to everyday lives. These concerns reverberate even more urgently today as we learn to “read” and “write” the human genome – unleashing the potential to change the fates and identities of our children.

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, the son of a little-educated boat-owner in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, had an unparalleled career as a defence scientist, culminating in the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna. As chief of the country’s defence research and development programme, Kalam demonstrated the great potential for dynamism and innovation that existed in seemingly moribund research establishments. This is the story of Kalam’s rise from obscurity and his personal and professional struggles, as well as the story of Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag-missiles that have become household names in India and that have raised the nation to the level of a missile power of international reckoning. This is also the saga of independent India’s struggle for technological self-sufficiency and defensive autonomy-a story as much about politics, domestic and international, as it is about science.

Do let me know the books that have made a lasting impression on you! Luba geet

Covid19

Hey guys so I really don’t want to increase any more stress in the current scenario but I thought I would put out this post about covid19

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Some trustworthy and reliable information links

WHO Report on India https://www.who.int/india/emergencies/india-situation-report

Coronavirus information – India (Snapshot)Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of Indiamohfw.gov.in (Cached)

Coronavirus advisory informationWorld Health Organizationwho.int/emergencies

Coronavirus Q&AWorld Health Organizationwho.int/news-room

Coronavirus condition overviewWorld Health Organizationwho.int/health-topics

Anxiety and stress during these times?

https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/covid-19-lockdown-guide-how-manage-anxiety-and

The Miniaturist

About the book

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam–a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion–a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .”

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

My views


This book has so many themes going on, but somehow everything came together like puzzle pieces. The protagonist Nella is an eighteen year old girl, who comes from a former ‘big name’ family but now they are poor as their father drank away their fortune.

She is married to a rich older man in Amsterdam and she moves there with dreams of starting her married life as soon as possible, to have kids a loving husband, her own house but as she arrives at her new home she quickly realises that things are not as simple.

Her husband is absent most of the days her sister in law, Marin who lives with them is quite critical and not at all impressed by her. More so even the house helps are also not very attentive towards her and she finds herself quite alone.

Meanwhile her husband Joannes Brandt gives her a miniature version of the house they live in as a marriage gift ( which was pretty common in that era and place) and she obtain a address book from Marin of people who make miniature stuff for the house.

Petronella’s house is on display at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Actually Nella’s character is loosely based on Petronella Oortman (Dutch pronunciation: [ˌpɛtroˈnɛla ˈoːrtmɑn]; 1656–1716) was a Dutch woman whose elaborate dollhouse is part of the permanent collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Coming back to the book, as Nella starts to order things for her miniature house,she realises that they are always eerily similar to the real things and there are always more than she ordered.

As the story moves forward she realises that her husband although is affectionate towards her, maintain quite a distance from her because he is gay and the family always tried to hide this fact because it was a huge crime in the time and place, infact punishable by death.

Also the things miniaturist send have a sort of ominous quality to them and Nella is expectedly creeped out by the whole thing. As the story moves forward Joannes Brandt’s secret finally came out because his lover ditches him and I would not spoil the ending but it’s good.

But I would say this is definitely one of the most beautiful coming of age stories in historical fiction genre. Although it’s very character and detail oriented, written with meticulous attention towards details and emotions and if you are more of a plot person you might not be very impressed with it but for character driven people go for it !

About the author

About the Author

Jessie Burton is the author of the Sunday Times number one and New York Times bestsellers The Miniaturist and The Muse, and the children’s book The Restless Girls. In its year of publication The Miniaturist sold over a million copies, and in 2017 it was adapted into a major TV series for BBC One. Her novels have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and she is a regular essay writer for newspapers and magazines. She lives in London.

**have been meaning to read this for a while, it’s my entry for march prompt of muffy tales reading challenge**

Love stories that touched my heart

Blurb

Love only a four letter word, yet its so powerful that it can conquer anything in this world!

We’ve all experienced the first flush of love and remember the lingering fragrance of it. For ages Love has remained one of the most cherished experiences that everyone wishes to live through at least once. Humanity, time and again, has coined many definitions to describe this beautiful emotion, but this small word is a feeling that cant simply be defined. It has to be narrated . . . in the form of stories love stories.

Love Stories That Touched My Heart is a collection of such stories from readers who have a tale to tell, shortlisted from over 2000 entries that were submitted in a competition conducted by Penguin India.

Selected and edited by Ravinder Singh, this anthology made up of the stories that touched Ravinder’s heart.

My views

I expected much more because there was Ravinder’s Singh’s name on this book but I guess these are not his creations and people’s stories so there was not alot of grit or storytelling to it and I don’t expect that in anthologies because somewhere I know that these are not professional authors who can turn mundane incidents into something poetic and magical but there has to be honesty for the same reason that these are people’s stories and it was definitely there in most of them where as others sounded too made up to me. I would say it’s a good-ish short light hearted read.

Women’s History Month book recommendations

So March is celebrated as women’s history month world wide so here’s my list of ten books by women I would suggest for the month.

This list is definitely not all inclusive in any ways but I have tried to include books from different time periods and places but most importantly all these books in some way or the other have impacted me personally and I wish they do the same for you. In no specific order the are

  1. Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood
  2. Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Diary of a young girl by Anne Frank
  4. Palace of illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  5. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  6. Ismat Chughtai: Lifting the Veil
  7. Pinjar by Amrita Pritam
  8. Old Playhouse and Other Poems by kamala Suraiya
  9. Educated by Tara Westover
  10. The blues eye by Tomi Morrison

Handmaid’s tale

This book is definitely one of the most famous ones but his deserves all the hype. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now

Pride and prejudice

This classic has countless retellings and movies and shows based on it and ofcourse you know the plot but read it you won’t be disappointed. Jane Austen called this brilliant work “her own darling child” and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.” The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England. Also Mr Darcy is one of the best ‘good guy’ of literature ever.

Diary of a young girl

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. And one of the most read books of all times.

In 1942, with the Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and surprisingly humorous, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Palace of illusions

A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharat—told from the point of view of an amazing woman.

Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to a time that is half history, half myth, and wholly magical. Narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Pandavas brothers in the Mahabharat, the novel gives us a new interpretation of this ancient tale.

The novel traces the princess Panchaali’s life, beginning with her birth in fire and following her spirited balancing act as a woman with five husbands who have been cheated out of their father’s kingdom. Panchaali is swept into their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war involving all the important kings of India. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her strategic duels with her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands’ most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female redefining for us a world of warriors, gods, and the ever-manipulating hands of fate.

Becoming

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Lifting the veil

At a time when writing by and about women was rare and tentative, Ismat Chughtai explored female sexuality with unparalleled frankness and examined the political and social mores of her time.
She wrote about the world that she knew, bringing the idiom of the middle class to Urdu prose, and totally transformed the complexion of Urdu fiction.
Lifting the Veil brings together Ismat Chughtai’s fiction and non-fiction writing. The twenty-one pieces in this selection are Chughtai at her best, marked by her brilliant turn of phrase, scintillating dialogue and wry humour, her characteristic irreverence, wit and eye for detail.

Pinjar

Pinjar is one of the most touching stories I have ever read, translated to English by Kushwant Singh, it retains its poetic quality and I think even though we have a Bollywood movie based on this book still it remains somewhat underrated amongst the new age readers. So if you are looking forward to read some historical fiction based during Indo-Pak partition/ WWII by female author from a female POV, this is the book I would definitely suggest.

Old playhouse and other poems

The Old Playhouse and Other Poems is among the classics of modern Indian poetry in English. The newer edition also carries an eminently readable and insightful introduction by V. C. Harris. Not only Kamala Dass major themes but the specific terms of her poetic address, voice and concerns (as a woman, poet and social being) receive fairly close and critical attention in these pages. Harris concludes his discussion of The Old Playhouse with an altogether fresh and illuminating reading of Kamala Dass An Introduction in the light of postcolonial concerns of home and the world and the poets conversion to Islam in the last years of her life. Talking about Kamala Das today means talking about not merely post-Independence Indian poetry in English, he observes,  adding that other, far more complicated issues relating to gender, violence, identity and difference, hybridity, contradictory coherence and language and the art of writing the self cry for renewed attention, pre-eminently in this collection. New readers of Kamala Das will find her as engaging and challenging as the old readers have always found her. Furthermore, as Harris suggests in his essay, no reader could leave The Old Playhouse without being awakened by a newer conscience and unmoved by fond memories.

Educated

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

The bluest eye

The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. The Bluest Eye remains one of Tony Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.

I hope you something from list would fancy you, do tell me in the comments.

A long Petal of the sea

Publisher – Bloomsbury
Author – Isabel Allende
Length – 336 pages

Genre – Historical Fiction (inspired by real story)

Rating – 5⭐ /5

I would probably never be able to express how much I loved this book and the Deep impact it had on me as a human, in the times of desperate needs human lives becomes the cheapest and by all the accounts,that I have read on wars ,in my mind atleast they never lead to anything good but this book being a war story and with omnipresence of death and sadness is so beautiful, crafted with a very delicate treatment of every aspect of life, love and loss.

Blurb

September 3, 1939, the day of the Spanish exiles’ splendid arrival in Chile, the Second World War broke out in Europe.
Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life – and the fate of his country – forever changed. Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser Bruguera, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile.
When opportunity to seek refuge in Chile arises, they take it, boarding a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’ over the seas. There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.

Summary

In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires.
Together with two thousand other refugees, they embark on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda, to Chile: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” As unlikely partners, they embrace exile as the rest of Europe erupts in world war. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning, and over the course of their lives, they will face trial after trial. But they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they will be exiles no more. Through it all, their hope of returning to Spain keeps them going. Destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world, Roser and Victor will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.

My views

As I said in the beginning I loved this book, I cannot express in words how much, if you are going to read only two books this year, make sure this is one of them ( I’m saying two books because I’m an incurable optimist )

Sometimes you read a book and you get so submerged in it, so involved that even after the book is finished the story just stays with you, this is one of those books for me.

Also the more I read about wars the more I realise that they never lead to anything good compared to the loss of innumerable lives and suffering of normal people. Here too the suffering of people is shown with such beauty, it has many grotesque details but it deals with all of them with a lot of grace.

(Minor spoilers may be ahead from here)

I loved the Pablo Neruda quotes at the beginning of every chapter, it also served as a reminder that this book was not just a work of fiction and these things were lives of so many people.

As the Spanish civil war broke, both Dalmau brothers starts to work for their army. Victor works at the medical unit, where he restarts the heart of a fallen soldier becomes a pivotal point in his story and his brother Guillem, a handsome army man. His character has a short but very impactful presence and undoubtedly When his parents take in one of his father’s best piano students, Roser Bruguera, it’s Guillem that she falls in love with, and his death is one of the most heartbreaking points in the story, specially because he had left behind a pregnant Roser.

Victor carefully opened the billfold,which seemed to be about to fall in to pieces. He took out Guillem’s identify card , and a miraculously intact photograph. It was the image of a young girl standing next to a grand piano. Victor Dalmau remained seated for several minutes at the foot of camp bed, unable to speak

Along with half a million fellow Spaniards fleeing Franco, Roser makes it to France, where she’s interned in the Argelès-sur-Mer concentration camp. Separately, Victor, too, is imprisoned in the same camp there, before escaping to track her down in Perpignan, where she and her baby son are sheltering with a Quaker family.

Chilean diplomat and poet Pablo Neruda lobbied to save over 2,000 of the refugees, as many as could fit on a nine-ton cargo ship called the SS Winnipeg, bound for political asylum. Victor and Roser manages to be two of those people on the Winnipeg after getting into a marriage for convenience as the preference was more for immediate relatives. And after a month long journey on the ship they finally reach chille and the next war breaks.

Over the coming decades Victor and Roser go through many challenges, including another exile, this time to Venezuela( like Allende herself)

But before that happens, they have a chance to repay Neruda, hiding him in their home after communism is outlawed and a warrant is issued for his arrest. When the poet moves on to another safe house, Victor realises how “his guest had filled every nook and cranny with his huge presence”

Spanning through decades and generations this is definitely a story worth reading and remembering.

Gandhi’s singing India

Title – Gandhi’s singing India, music and sonic nationalism

Book cover

Publisher – Roli Books
Author – Lakshmi Subramanian
Publication date – 9 Jan 2020
Language – English
length – 240 pages

Blurb –

Here is the first ever and only detailed account of Gandhi and music in India. How politics and music interspersed with each other has been paid scanty, if not any, attention, let alone Gandhi’s role in it. Looking at prayer as politics, singing Gandhi’s India traces Gandhi’s relationship with music and nationalism. Uncovering his writings on music, ashram Bhajan practice, the Vande Mataram debate, Subramanian makes a case for a closer scrutiny of Gandhian oeuvre to map sonic politics in twentieth century India.

About the author –

Authors picture


Lakshmi Subramanian is an Indian historian with a long and distinguished teaching and research career, having taught history in India and elsewhere. Her work in the fields of maritime history and the social history of Indian music is widely recognized. Post her tenure as Professor of History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, she has been researching with the Godrej Archives in Mumbai. Currently, she is Professor at the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, BITS Pilani (Goa), and also Associate Member at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Nantes, France.

My views –

Picture from my Instagram of the book

“sound is ubiquitous in the Indian landscape. Almost every public event – political or religious – is accompanied by amplified sounds of one or the other forms of auditory articulation; for instance weddings, blood donation camps , public adresses are invariably accompanied by diverse form of music that, notwithstanding the variations, are distinctly and indentifiably Indian.

This book discovers the answer to the questions – What is it about music and it’s properties that enable it to play a social role? How did music enter public life in modern India ?

Well known historian Lakshmi Subramanian emaculately chalks out Gandhi’s view of music not as a form of entertainment but as a serious, committed a spiritual activity.

By the time Gandhi ji entered active politics there was no doubt in capability of music to evoke mass emotions although being a man of religion he was more drawn towards ‘bhajans’ and they were a part of daily routine in the Sabarmati Ashram. Like Tagore, Gandhi too, found the idea of extreme nationalism unappealing and when he was moved by song and melody, it was either the stirring content or its devotional potential that he valued.

Tagore and Gandhi

In Gandhi jis letter to Rabindranath Tagore ,22 Dec 1945

” I have a suspicion that perhaps there is more of music than warranted by life or I will put the thought in another way. The music of life if in danger of being lost in the music of the voice. Why not the music of the walk , of the march, of every movement, of ours and every activity”

The book also sheds light on the intriguing topic of the salient role music played in political and religious mobilization, not just in Gandhi’s life and his well-know prayer meets at Sabarmati but also the life of a regular Indian.

Picture from Gandhi’s prayer meet

Be it the Hindustani classical music that bought the Hindu pupils and their Islamic Ustaads together or the song ‘Vande matram’ that still gives me goosebumps today, which was translated in many Indian languages during the independence struggle to appeal to the masses and mobilize them towards the independence struggle. Music produced a language that Gandhi could use to speak and convey his ideas of freedom and swaraj.

Gandhi ji addressing the masses

In a public adresses, Ahmedabad, 1926, Gandhi ji said

“To know music is to transfer it to life. The prevalent discord of today is an indication of out sad plight. There can be no swaraj where there is no harmony no music”

The amount of hard-work and research that would have went in to this kind of book is very evident and commendable. I was alittle apprehensive before picking this book up, ( one more book about Gandhi ji) but I would say it’s more about music and the role it played in the time period rather than just a person and I loved that. It makes you think about he role of art forms in he movements be it political or religious and even in he present times we see artist using their platforms to to spread the word and ultimately influencing the masses.

A young lady performing at a fest in support of equal rights for all

If you are into history and / or music this book is a well written, compact yet powerful, & beautifully edited piece of literature that is a must read. Be sure to check it out.

Singing Gandhi’s India is a powerful and beautifully crafted book that looks in to the answer for : why are we truly moved by music?

Gone girl

Author – Gillian Flynn

Language – English

Genre – Thriller

Publisher – Crown Publishing Group

Pages- 432 

Book cover

Blurb

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge . Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

My views –

Pic from my Instagram (follow me there)

The book starts at Amy and Nick’s fiffts wedding anniversary, and read Nick’s narration in real time and Amy’s via her diary that she has kept throughout her relationship with Nick. At the beginning Amy from the diary feels like a nice woman who falls in love with the perfect guy, marries him but as the days progressed she turns into a ignored wife. As the recession hits Amy and Nick both loose their jobs, Amy is kind of a blue blood with a book series dedicated to her from her parents but Nick don’t have that security to fall back to and feels insecure about money. As Nick’s mom gets on her deathbed they move back to his home town to help them also Nick takes money from his wife to start a bar with his sister Margo meanwhile Amy is bored at home mostly. Their relationship also gets abusive and Nick end up hitting her, she provokes him, according to her self. At this point she starts to feel scared of Nick and her diary entries stop.

Nick’s narration felt much sinister to me, in the first chapter he talks about opening his wife’s skull. As we move ahead he starts to feel more and more suspicious. He constantly lie to his sister,ignore his parents and has an affair with one of his students & don’t have any idea of his wife’s pregnancy . But he felt ‘too bad to be true’ and with further narration we do realise that he might actually not be the killer, rather he is just gullible. Amy’s moves him like a pawn to wherever she wanted after her disappearance through her little hint notes and her realise this much later when it was almost too late.

This book was just amazing. And I can’t help but say I have never disliked both main characters as much before, although I had brief deep sympathy for the ‘diary Amy’ TBH but as the book progressed and her psychopathic tendencies started to show up I kind of started feeling scared for Nick and later Desi.

Amy is one of the best literary females I have encountered in a while. Her character is meticulously layered . Readind her account feels like slowly removing some sort of onion peels layers by layers but not knowing what would come out. But even till the last page I couldn’t truly hate her, stay with me here, she is definitely a total psychopath but at some level she is a girl who wanted to be loved and appreciated by everyone.

Bearing the weight of her parents picture perfect marriage and being the inspiration of ‘amazing Amy’, she lives in a constant lie, that is explained so well in the cool girl monologue ( below in italics). She never learn to make real bond, she just keeps on presenting herself as the ‘cool girl’ but when she sees all her brownie points taken away from her, her money, her home ,her NYC life, friends, her husband starts to cheat on her; she starts to turn more and more towards her dark side, although her similar ‘acts’ in the past are shown in the book but this time she takes it too far. I hate her but I also feel she needs help.

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)

Nick is also suffering from the same state, he needs constant approval from people to feel good in his life, he comes back for the aid of his parents but don’t sympathize with them alot, constantly feel insecure because his wife had more money and cheats on her for ‘ make himself feel better’. He is also too gullible for his own good but he somehow manages to mend ways in just the last pages.

A cool collage I found on Pinterest

Also because both the characters are such pretenders in earlier days of their relationship they both did that and their relationship flourish but as time passes by the masks started to melt slowly and Nick became a cheating husband, who didn’t care about his wife, her happiness, his parents or anything else rather that himself and Amy who is vindictive at some extra levels, when finds about her husband’s affair took things up a notch and patiently planned for a full year to stage a full on crime seen, to stage her ‘murder’, fake pregnancy and then ultimately murder Desi only to get away with everything and get things as she wanted.

I don’t like either characters as people, but as characters they are so damn good. They are unreliable, the lie, the cheat and whatnot and this whole thing kept me on the edge the full time. I read this book in two nights I guess and it was worth it, now I’m planning to watch the movie based on the book (heard it’s good)

If you are looking for a good psychological thriller. Look no further.

Diy scented oil candle

Hey guys so recently I posted a Instagram story of a home-made oil candle and I got a ton of messages asking me where do I got it?

I moved the candle away immediately, don’t worry

The answer is I made it myself from just the things lying around my house and it smells amazing and burn for quite sometime. So if you wanna know how to make this, keep reading!

Things we’ll need

Things we need
  • A glass jar (I have recycled an used Keventer’s icecream mason jar)
  • Half pint of oil ( the key is to use a scent free oil )
  • Some flowers / fruits (I used orange peels, you can use whichever fruit or leaves you want)
  • A wick

How to?

  • Lay old newspaper or old cloth to avoid the mess
  • First fix the wick on the base of mason jar
  • Fill the jar with fruits / leaves / flowers of your choice
  • Pour the oil carefully
  • Close the lid and leave the jar for a few hours or overnight
  • Ta-da now burn your beautiful candle

Some points

  • You can use any flowers and fruits you want, even fake ones, just weigh them down with pebbles to keep them away from flames and please do follow basic fire safety and common-sense
  • You can use spices and essential oils too, cinnamon sticks and vanilla essence makes great combo, just mix and match and have fun with the concept
  • I have use sunflower seed oil in mine and didn’t notice any smoke, except when extinguishing
  • After a while the wick would burn away, then you can replace it with another pre-waxed wick.
  • To put down the candle just put on the lid, the floating wick can stay there

Marley and me

Title – Marley’ in Marley and me – life and love with the world’s worst dog

Book cover

Author – John Grogan

Pages – 291

Genre – Memoir

Publisher – HarperCollins &  Hodder & Stoughton (UK)

Publication date – 18.10.2005

Blurb

John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.

Marley quickly grew into a barreling, ninety-seven-pound streamroller of a Labrador retriever, a dog like no other. He crashed through screen doors, gouged through drywall, flung drool on guests, stole women’s undergarments, and ate nearly everything he could get his mouth around, including couches and fine jewelry. Obedience school did no good—Marley was expelled. Neither did the tranquilizers the veterinarian prescribed for him with the admonishment, “Don’t hesitate to use these.”

And yet Marley’s heart was pure. Just as he joyfully refused any limits on his behavior, his love and loyalty were boundless, too. Marley shared the couple’s joy at their first pregnancy, and their heartbreak over the miscarriage. He was there when babies finally arrived and when the screams of a seventeen-year-old stabbing victim pierced the night. Marley shut down a public beach and managed to land a role in a feature-length movie, always winning hearts as he made a mess of things. Through it all, he remained steadfast, a model of devotion, even when his family was at its wit’s end. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms.

My views

(minor spoilers may be ahead from here)

Journalist John Grogan recounts the thirteenth years he spent with his dog ‘Marley’ in Marley and me – life and love with the world’s worst dog.

Marley came to Grogans newly wed life when they decide to start a family, both having fond memories of their childhood dogs, get Marley (a yellow lab) home. The Grogans are amazed by the uncontrollable energy of Marley. He was not your typical well behaved Labrador, as the title suggests he was ‘worst behaved’ so much that once mental illness was suggested

The 2008 movie based on the book starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson

As the Grogans struggle to keep up with Marley, their family continue to grow, and go through their own ups and downs but like all dogs Marley is always there to comfort and welcome them when they come back home be it when they had their miscarriages or finally when their babies came home

Reading the book I laughed and I cried. The moments of Marley behaving badly were so amusing. He is one viking of a dog that crashes and crushes everything that he feels like , drool on guests, stole women’s undergarments, and ate nearly everything from furniture to expensive jewelry.

The Grogans try to get him in an obeidence school from which he is expelled from, they even seek help of a veterinarian, who prescribes anxiolytic meds with the admonishment, “Don’t hesitate to use these” but nothing happens, Marley remained same.

I had tears in my eyes in the part where the mom comes back home after the miscarriage and (now) calm Marley showers her with love and get on her lap. Also the last chapter of Marley’s final moments is so heartbreaking.

Marley’ final moments from the movie

They only problem I had with the book is this is a full family story rather than the dogs story which I expected and I would have to say Grogan was not a very responsible owner with Marley, I mean don’t blame the dog when you get him from a backyard breeder without any research and also leaving behind your about to die dog to go to Disney World, but who am I to say!

With all that said, the book is good, well written beautiful account of a not-so-perfect dog and his family

I have lived with dogs for all my life, as a kid due to nature of my dad’s job we moved alot and in all the new cities I was accompanied by my dog brother, I don’t know what I would have done without him and I really want to dedicate this to my brother snaps, we will meet someday ( wiping tears)

I read this book for my January prompt for the #readingwithmuffy challenge. Also do give me a follow on my Instagram. Love and good vibes – geet

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