My Lifetime’s Spiritual Reading List

I read anything and everything. I just try to stay away from judging any of the reading lists that explored. But then I find my thought somehow gets structured by what I read. Though, it would always be subjected to a huge debate in my head.

I’m a lifelong loner and started my long standing relationship with reading since my 3rd grade. So I kept reading a lot of British classics during those visits to library around the corner of Headmistress room corridor. I would skip my lunch sometime or stuff myself to rush to the library.

My first book on Self-help was The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. It was the first book which was close to spiritual that I read during that time. I was very confused and couldn’t understand the content. But somehow, I kept thinking, that I could change my thoughts to positive as easily as turning the pages of the book.

But nothing happened within me, I still felt bereft. I was also enrolled in the local lending library, that is when, I came to know of T. S. Lobsang Rampa. I was totally taken at the time with occult material such as astral travel and other related topics. I even imagined having such an astral experience, the power of auto-suggestion.

One of my troubles has been that I get taken in by whatever book I am reading. These books are during the time when my personality was getting set into a groove. The confusion pot of thoughts that kept going within me was so difficult to be ordered to behave. The Tibetan phase was during my eleventh standard, and by 12th grade, I got busy with my board exams. After that I kind of lost track with Rampa’s materials.

So when I reached College, then everything opened up. From that point, my reading shifted to Jiddu Krishnamurti and at last I had found something close to my thoughts. The material made sense to me because I loved word confusion. But I was equally not ready to give up my householder position. Even now I am not ready to give up and become a monk. I prefer monk over saint, I don’t qualify really for the other.

So for every spiritual inquiry book that I got interested, then, I will read two Romance novels to balance it. See it takes two romance novels to even out one spiritual query book for me. That was my way of saying that I will not just vanish into thin air of unidentified state of commonality. Even with the advanced thinker such as JK’s work; I used to read a combo sections where he would describe a scene and gave the lesson behind it.

It was such fun period to read all the various spiritual books and self-help books. I was like reading at least one book per week during that phase of my life. Around my post-college years when I was having trouble finding something different. Around then, I took a Pranic Healing class as per my cousin’s advice. That kind of linked me back to Rampa’s astral reading days.

During that time my cousin who is from Kashi and was a great Vedic Pandit shared a book with me and my life took another turn. It was titled “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. Synchronicity in which everything is happens for a reason got so much resonance with me that I was grabbed by my childish inquiry scruff and shaken.

Then, life became so interesting because I began noticing people and thought that they had a message for me. Of course, every interaction is a message for being a better person in real-life. Even these days I do read books by Robin Sharma and others to cheer myself up to find motivation.

Right now I am almost become someone who is very balanced but occasionally I lose it but only to gain it back with self-debate. I have read books by Deepak Chopra, Stephen R Covey, Thich Nhat Hanh, Robin Sharma’s “The Monk who sold his Ferrari” the first among the many series of self-help books.

Super Soul Sunday of Oprah Winfrey, Talk shows on motivation by Solomon Pappaiah on Tirukkural, Suki Sivam’s talks and all those Santana dharma by Velukkudi Krishnan and Harikatha discourses by Vishaka Hari and lot of others happened once I shifted from reading to listening.

Then came the days when I would practice meditation at least for 30 minutes every day which I would religiously follow. These days I can find meditative state by merely being. I still have a long way to go spiritually; but the journey was one of many wrong turns and twists. In all this, I still feel a connection with everything in this world.

I have truly forgiven everyone who hurt me during my growing years and I don’t get hurt that fast these days. Even if I do, there are many ways to find peace from within. There are actually no sadness in my life since peace from within resides inside which is such a pleasant feeling. I live my life in Mindfulness these days and find God at every turn welcoming my life with zest.

Image Source: Pexels.com

 

Tagore’s Package of Unforgettable Characters

Book Title:  The Very Best Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore

Author: Rabindranath Tagore

Translator:  N/A

Rating:  4.5 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Tagore was always a fascination for me. In the very early formative years, I had read the Kabuliwahal piece from a borrowed and dog-eared copy of the short stories by this author. His way of telling a story is really appealing for two main reasons.

One is that he takes his time narrating; while ensuring to maintain the reader’s interest in the plot. Another reason is that, I found ancient voices talk to me with familiarity which was endearing to me in my mind.

Every story seemed well contemplated and effortlessly wrote. Be it The Postmaster, Kabuliwahal, Subha, or The Castaway every single story left a feeling of satisfaction; while encouraging being a creative thinker who is progressive.   Tagore was change-maker using one word at a time fitted in neat concepts.

Story in a Nutshell:

These are collection of stories about people in and around Kolkata and West Bengal. These stories are set in late days when the British Government was replaced with self-governance of India. The entire psyche of the Bengalis and of the immigrants makes an impact on the story plot; while providing a beautiful canopy of experiences for the readers. It is wonderful cosy blanket weaved into short plots that carried human emotions and feeling with great precision.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I really love the idea of short stories. Short pieces are hard to write; but great to read. The workmanship of Tagore in these pieces is really worth more than one reading. I am still trying to learn from the style that Tagore used for his short stories. There is never a moment of boredom in these stories; which happily amble their way to the finish. I didn’t have any dislike about the pieces but maybe I wanted to read more stories by Tagore.

My Opinion

I feel that this is a great book for beginning readers because it is reflective and simple at the same time. I would recommend it to students of 6th grade without any fear of censorship for some of the stories. But there are some adult stories too in the collection. The stories are euphemistically done with an eye-for-perfection.

Image Source: Embassy Book

Snapshot of a Reporter’s Life in Karachi

Book Title:  Karachi, You’re Killing Me!

Author: Saba Imtiaz

Translator:  N/A

Rating:  3 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

 

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Saba Imtiaz as a storyteller is very refreshing and new. I enjoyed working my way through her novel. Her fiction has been done with a frisky style on really serious issues, while maintaining a balance; if one could have a balance in the very many chaotic conditions. I liked the way her narration flowed like a stream of consciousness and Karachi from the protagonist’s point of view.

Story in a Nutshell:

A 20-years-old Beat Reporter’s life is captured with vivid description and casual carelessness to stark realities of life in Karachi. Ayesha Khan finds her partner after all her internal confusion and self-analysis. Meanwhile, the backdrop of Karachi becomes a character by itself and acts as a catalyst to bring the two main characters together. As usual, it is “they lived happily ever after story” with, maybe, Ayesha getting more footage in the story.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked the conversational tone of the novel and the way you get to spend time in the mental space of Ayesha. The main character has been beautifully done and the facts of Reporter’s life have been stated without making them glorious or gory. It was a fine balance that Saba Imtiaz has achieved.

I disliked takeaway images of Karachi which were filled with dark sides and the lighter side was somehow buried down. But the storyline was aiming for a more positive look even in a very downhill political situation.

My Opinion

I really liked reading this book for its more insightful social life after sun down. Life in Karachi had unique look and feel to it. The fact is that I had no other comparisons to make with any pre-existing images of Karachi. So the city was fascinating to read and to see in my mind’s eye.

 

Image Source: https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Karachi_You_re_Killing_Me.html?id=os_JAgAAQBAJ&source=kp_cover&redir_esc=y

Prequel to Jane Eyre | A Compelling Read

Book Title:  Wide Sargasso Sea

Author: Jean Rhys

Translator:  N/A

Rating:  3.5 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Jean Rhys as a storyteller was rather complicated for me. But the scenes that she created in the story were really compelling to read for me. Her writing style kind of awakened in a sense of despair that comes from the fact that darker side of life has prominent place.

The narration took on a self-obsessed shade of dark things which appealed to my sensitivity. But then the energy expands to the spaces given importance. I felt even her happy moments in the story were colored by deep-rooted sadness. There was no hope anywhere in the narration and that felt a little sad.

Story in a Nutshell:

The story is a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Story is about the mysterious character in the novel Jane Eyre. The imprisoned person kept in hiding mentally unstable and Wide Sargasso Sea explores her journey to that state. The journey of the character from her life as a child to her marriage gets explored in this novel.

The fact that the novel is beautifully dark and intense, I was able to finish the book in two sittings in the cold of Fall. I have never felt so connected with the story as I did with this novel.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked the pace of the story very much. The point is some writers’ narrative is easy to capture than a few others. With this particular novel I had no trouble with the style and narration. The fact that it explored the dark side of human life and disappointments of many forms, it felt like spinning in a vortex of confusion. The viewpoint of the narrative took turns with different characters gave it an unique quality of storyline that I liked a lot.

One thing that I disliked was the fact that Rhys should have kept to a singular narrator which would have given it the power. But then, that could be my quirk for specific preferences in books that I read with care.

My Opinion

I would recommend this book for serious reading with open-mindedness towards the starkness that you will find the story. This book opened up my understanding so many dark sides of my character too. Great read for once.

Image Source: https://thebookexperience.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/mad-women-wide-sargasso-sea-by-jean-rhys/

Libraries Are My Soul Healers

My childhood, youth and womanhood have been spent in various libraries. I love things being arranged even though I lacked the talent to arrange things. But my life has such wonderful moments that are pure communion of my spirits with higher spirits.

Places and spaces influence me and it is after a while that I notice people. Usually I’m in my own world when I am in a library. The library has always been the answer to calming down my emotions which get haywire at the drop of the hat.

My First Library | West Mambalam, Chennai

My brother took both my sister and me to the library. It was pretty trick stuff for him. But both of us are good followers. We were well warned not to run amok on the main road. So I remember spending time sifting all the comic books. We were given a budget of one book each. But eventually my brother got two more books for us.

That way I must say my sibling and I sport affections that are almost similar to each other, in the cases of comic books. My sister loved less wordy more graphics. I still remember how both of us would giggle uncontrollably when we saw the Roman’s flying in the air in Asterix and Obelix series. The humor that is so apparent in the comic is really a “vera level” (a different level).

School Library | T’nagar, Chennai

I was in my eighth grade, when my school started having the library open for students during the lunch hour. I would always rush to get my share of all those young reader books. I picked innumerable Agatha Christie mystery novel. My favorites were Hercule Poirot, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. I usually solve the mystery before it gets over. I used to enjoy myself immensely.

British Council Library & American Council Library | Chennai

I was so far only familiar with a dusty local library and maybe organized small area library books in school; but then, heck man, I love books whether dusty or clean or clustered or spaced-out. My first spacious library was British Council Library during my college days and I loved reading all the classics that I could lay my hand on.

G K Chesterton was my all-time favorite. I loved P G Wodehouse and Jeeves series was simply superb to read and enjoy. Later I also joined American Council Library and mind you that place was so calm and silent.

Yishun Community Library | Singapore

One of my needs was to be in a place close to the Library. My ex-husband found a place close to the Yishun Community Library and even to this day I am most thankful for that one kind deed. Library would be where I would be after lunch and I totally enjoyed myself.

I was able to find volunteering jobs with the Library and I was most happy. I would volunteer to arrange the books and tell stories in the library storytelling room.

I have this wonderful story from Yishun Library that it is etched in my memory forever. I was on my fourth Thursday of story reciting stage when it was close to Christmas and I wanted to pick a story about Jesus and the manger. But found a Santa Claus story which I happily recited to my little group of young listening minds.

When I finished the book one little Chinese boy got up and said can we hear the music attached to the book. There was a button in the book which when pressed gives out music. The boy showed it to me and I was totally unaware of it. I was doubtful whether the music will play; but still went along with his suggestion. We found out that it worked and the group of six children all took turns to press the button. That day I felt I owned the world.

Woodland Public Library | Singapore

The Woodland Public Library was a sight for my sore eyes. Whenever I felt emotionally empty I would go to the library traveling by SMRT and sneakily enjoying an egg puff.

There was huge water fountain in the library which blended with the ambiance completely. I would spend hours with a book in my hand in front of the fountain. It was almost like Zen meditation for me.

I picked some really wonderful adult graphic books and the children section was divine. I loved sitting in the short chair watching all the children run around and quiet ones with a book in a hand under the artificial tree that was kept in the middle.

There could be any amount of discomfort in my life; but it would all melt when I am in the library. Life is filled up with moments such as these in plenty. These moments are all surrounded by good book read or emoted with in the course of my reading it.

Mission Library | San Francisco, Calif.

I was not really checking out for places near a Library to stay, but then magically, I found that Bartlett Street had a library and I would ever so often, walk down the street and pick some books from the Mission library. Library is the best place for me emotionally and spiritually. I always found my balance when I visit a library.

These days I don’t visit Libraries as often as I used to; but keep finding new things to read by actually creating my own little library at home

Zen of Fishing With Santiago and the Marlin

Book Title:  The Old Man and the Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Translator:  N/A

Rating:  4 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | Snapdeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Ernest Hemingway as a storyteller is really intense and precise. All forms and types of storytellers have their own way of building the story. Hemingway has a way of getting into my mind space.

I have read his other works but his best work is “The Old Man and the Sea.” The novelette holds the readers’ interest and retains them with just a few human characters whose conversations are crisply done.

Story in a Nutshell:

The story revolves around a fisherman’s life. The story is a snapshot of lives of fishermen who happen to be on coastal space and where the main source of income comes from the fishing industry.

The build up of Santiago’s experience provides insight into his thought process. Santiago, an elderly fisherman’s work-life balance, is well drawn out in this novelette.

The story progresses from a defeated work day and the next day of success. But when he returns all that remain with him is the skeleton of the Marlin that he had caught. It almost parallels with life in general. The leftover of a life would be the prized catch of the day.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I like the fact that most of the major conversations happen in the mind of Santiago during his fishing alone in the sea. There is great power in those scenes, which are well portrayed in the novelette.

I enjoyed the fact that the internal thoughts and life’s lesson is beautifully intertwined.  There was a sense of balance and nobility in the struggle between Santiago and the Marlin. Both the main characters are created to perfection and beautifully rendered.

My Opinion

Life is all about struggles that one undergoes. Santiago’s fishing experience can be matched up with any of the life situation and the outcome of which becomes the catharsis of a human soul.

The strife between the man and nature is given an upper hand, when the man wins; but eventually he is left with the carcass. Both of them, had to do what they had to do, in the given situation.

It is a question of survival for both of them and that is beautifully portrayed in the novelette. It is an excellent re-readable book and has many levels of interpretation to span across.

Tulika – A Children’ Books Publisher in Chennai

As part of my Study Paper for my Journalism and Corporate Communication course at Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai, I had decided to write about Children’s Literature in India. Following which I had interviewed an illustrator, Editor of Children’s book and others in this line. Deeya Nayar of Tulika Publisher was kind enough to accept my request for an interview back in 2001. Much of my thoughts about publishing challenges of the Children’s book became an understanding for me during this interview.

Tulika’s books can be used as supplementary readers to the mainstream academic books. They have topics to complement and supplement subject books like English, History, Geography, Mathematics and Language learning tools. Tulika brings out both fiction and non-fiction books. “The non-fiction books are the most challenging ones,” says Ms. Deeya Nayar. They are challenging because of their role to represent real life facts in understandable and simple language.

Most of the books published so far, pays a lot of importance for moralistic teaching, value-based education. Parents expect the book to carry a moral at the end of any narrated story.  Tulika aims to counterbalance these attitudes by bringing out more books of Indian origin for Children and has a firm commitment to provide good quality books with proper text material and appropriate Illustration. The illustration plays a very important role for selection of a book for reading among Children. Ms. Nayar cites an incident like the time when a Child is allowed to browse through the library which is a rare occurrence and does not happen often. The child picks up books because it likes the illustration or an aspect in that book which captivates its imagination. The child would hold on to the books and would insist on buying that specific book.

“Books should not only be easily understandable but also have to challenge the child’s mind,” says Ms. Nayar. Working only within the vocabulary limit of the child, a writer may introduce new words, which could be contextually decipherable in the story for furthering the child’s vocabulary.

The Adults mostly select books for Children. Ms. Nayar feels, “the Parent should let the child go and allow it to select books on its own judgement.” Adults from their overprotective attitude scrutinise, and then, select a book based on whether it could be read by a child or not. Nearly 90% of the selections come under this category of Adult’s choice. Parents’ choose books with a moral or educational value. The pleasure of merely enjoying the book for its reading quality is not given an importance.

In treating serious issues for Children there is much caution employed by the publishing world. The sensitive subject has to be treated in manner that could be more easily understood by the Child without scaring them. The Child is usually more open towards new concepts than its Parent.

One such serious issue dealt concerning a current issues are published by Tulika under the section called ‘Think About.’ The subject dealt is current and taken from the environment that it constantly faces. Usually Children are protected from the hard truth of the world but the increasing exposure to riots and violence. It then becomes imperative that this information is disclosed to the Child without glossing over and with positive tones. The serious issues like Communal harmony, faith, special children and other Child affecting subjects; Tulika aims it for slightly older children, the 9 plus age group.

Books titled “Sorry, Best Friend” for the 9-10+ age group where Communal harmony is the subject dealt. The concept for the book has evolved from a workshop conducted in Delhi says Deeya. The stories in the book are compilation of the workshop’s outcome through interactive sessions between writers, illustrators and children. Book titled “One World” is again on communal harmony but on a global range. The book is where oneness among nations is dealt and for same age group. It contains stories, memoirs and activities.

“Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand?” is about acceptance of a child with impaired mobility. The Child is exposed to the idea that a disabled child is no different from itself and wishes to be accepted as their peers. This book is aimed at all age group and appears in simple and understandable verses.

Books like these are often a part of the curriculum and modify them creatively for ease in teaching the Child. These books could be used as a supplement to the curricular lessons and there by enhance the child’s learning.

Image Courtesy: http://www.tulikabooks.com/info/team

Magic of Fairy Tales a Lifetime’s Pleasure!

Book Title: Fairy Tales From Around the World

Author: Andrew Lang

Translator: N/A

Rating:  4 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | Snap-Deal |

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Andrew Lang was a poet and a journalist who through his works gifted book readers with so many well-known and unknown fairy tales. The author of these fairy tales worked more as a recorder of the stories taken from the available sources. His childhood influence for outdoors and topics connected with his interest areas have greatly influenced his works.

Story in a Nutshell:

Fairy Tales from Around the World have stories picked from his Color coded Fairy Tales books. It covers stories from Arabian Nights, Scotland, and other countries, thus giving it a rounded feel for stories about fairies and magic.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

It is really hard to like or dislike a book. I love fairy tales and given that I love to read stories that involve magic, this book was a treasure trove. Oral storytelling is really interesting to explore because all my childhood had been filled with some family member telling a story. All forms of moral at home was disguised in a story. So, it is not surprising that oral storytelling has become my greatest influence in my life. There was nothing to dislike in this collection thought now that I know there are lot more fairy tales written by Andrew Lang, there is a desire to read it all.

My Opinion

This book makes an excellent bedtime read. The stories are in its rough and ready state which gives it the spice of pleasure in reading them. There is something more interest about this fairy tales and that the element of magic and unbelievable pushing of truth. I would rather believe the blatant lies than have the fire of truth extinguish the magic of the moment in these tales.

Image Source: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fairy-tales-from-around-the-world-andrew-lang/1112044044#/

Dwelling in the Simple Minds of Religious Fractions

Book Title:  Silas Marner

Author: George Eliot

Translator:  N/A

Rating:  3.5 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  N/A

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, who was a popular novelist of the 19th century. As a writer, she was more inclined towards topics related to religion and she has explored the various interpretations; while holding a more radical view on the subject. Her novels play on plot events and its human reaction to religious rules that get violated or modified for individual use. Evans’ life was filled with not being accepted by her people and she gained some acceptance from her written works which was a small relief from the disowning she had faced for her belief system. As a radical writer, she comes out with some really appealing books that I enjoyed reading.

Story in a Nutshell:

Silas Marner was a weaver by profession with a dark past that has taken away his belief in a just God in his known world. His only activity was to weave and to sell his product with minimal human interaction. His aspiration after he had collected couple of gold coins was to increase it. He gets obsessed with the gold coins, that it to an exclusion of all other things. This Gold gets robbed, which shakes his sense of security and being subjected by God to an unjust second verdict on his life.

On New Year’s eve Silas finds an abandoned child in his home. He first mistakes it for his gold; but then, warmth of the golden curls of the child wakes his sense of being among the living. The girl child becomes his sole support and getting recognized as an agreeable person for the society around him. From the time of the Child’s presence in his life everything changes for Silas.

The story revolves around the various Characters struggling with their issues and belief systems. The religious thoughts that are found in two different places becomes a comparison grounds for religion based discourse through the characters’ thought process. How the issue of faith and questioning of it is handled by the author is the most enjoyable part of the novel. There is much that gets analyzed using the Characters as a main members contributing to the issue of faith.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

The one thing that I liked about this novel, was the fact that, the author was willing to question practices that were not scientific. There are much radical thoughts, that get introduced in the process of the plot progress. I loved the fact that the author questions some of the thoughts held in the religious ground without stampeding the general accepted sensitivity of the age in which the author lived in and interacted. But given that, it was written in the early days of radical questioning days, I feel the novel is made of great stuffs for intellectual wondering even in the present day intellectualizing.

One thing that I disliked about this novel, was the fact that, the author didn’t have to raze the Lantern Yard to non-existence. It was an easy way out by removing the entire place and leaving just the prison alone. There was much that could be explored if the place had remained.

My Opinion

The plot seems deceivingly simple but it isn’t. Silas Marner is the central figure around whom the entire story revolves. Silas has epileptic attacks which leaves him in an unconscious state for some duration was a great place to explore. The author plays around the medical condition which was interpreted as an unnatural interference from the divine or the devil in varying degree of interpretation. This sets the stage for the entire novel in many ways. The odd practice of deciding using a lot was an actual practice was surprising; but quiet fresh understanding. As a radical read, I found this book very interesting to intellectualize in my mind.

Image Source: http://www.loyalbooks.com/book/silas-marner-by-george-eliot

Unforgettable Flavors of Famous Five

Book Title: Five Go To Demon’s Rocks

Author: Enid Mary Blyton

Translator: N/A

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy: N/A

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Enid Blyton is the most popular author in my collection of childhood reading list. There is something happening when you read as a child. I was a voracious reader since I completed my fourth grade. Back on those days I didn’t think of the author so much but of the titles more. Famous Five was my first chapter book. I was in my fourth grade summer break when I picked my first Enid Blyton’s “Five Go To Demon’s Rocks.” I was absolutely fascinated with the storyline and there such pleasure in reading it.

Story in a Nutshell:

George and her cousins form the Famous Five along with George’s Dog Timothy. Professor Quentin’s colleague Professor Hayling and his son Tinker (and monkey Mischief) arrive early and the adult get involved with their research work.

Tinker and Monkey take some time to get to be friends with George and Timothy. The rest of the team members of the Famous Five arrive. The peace quotient in the Professor’s place downscales and he eventually asks the noisy children to vacation in the Lighthouse belong to Tinker.

The five arrived with their new friend Tinker and the adventure begins in full earnestness. The rest of the story is about various hurdles and treasures that the children discovered and uncover.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked a lot of things about this book and they are the car sounds and animal sounds that Tinker’s Mischief brought out. The words used in the book was easy to understand and was smooth to read.

I disliked the fact that the story ended very soon. There was great fun happening in the Lighthouse which I wanted to continue. Maybe that was the reason why I loved moving on to the next book in the series. I remember writing down 12 books completed within the holidays.

My Opinion

Enid Blyton stories are really wonderful place to start for early independent reader and I would suggest them to the GeneZ groups of newcomers.