The Great Day…

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As many know, on 8th March diligently I do a post dedicated to Women’s Day. Mostly I review fictional characters who are the very role model of strong women and so forth! However today I wanted to take a bit of a different route and instead share a factual tale. It is a true blessing when you have a sisterhood of women, supporting and cheering you through the journey called life! This becomes even more precious, when your boss and peers are women, who also are part of you sisterhood. And all of this becomes exceptional when they sit nearly 28000 km away from you.

I know I have been raving about my long hours recently as well some personal stuff that I am working through. Recently another friend and peer, of mine. CM, visited our US headquarter on a business trip, where she met my boss , AB and my peer, AG. They sent a whole truck of gifts for me, but what was perhaps the most wonderful gift, was a handmade mascot that they created for me for”the project” that is taking 28 hours of my 24 hours . Knowing how stressed out I was, they spent a lot of time in this cheer-me-up mascot, so that when I feel down, I have a pick me near me. CM on returning told me of the kind of hard work that AB and AG had put in to make that mascot and after a bit of nagging, AG put down the story for me. I present the same, deleting out the specifics.

Here’s to the two brilliant woman, who truly inspire and uplift other women!! Thank You for being such an awesome cheering squad!

CM arrived in sunny state of _ US, to spend some time in the  _ Center. Little did she know, she would be a part of a grand plan to transport the Mascot back to its PMO Owner India. On the morning of March 3rd, 2016; AB and AG thought of a genius plan to give life to the Mascot of “the project”. Before they set out to collect the materials needed, they assessed if the fuzzy cactus was the optimal platform for the mascot. AB said, “I like the concept of the fuzzy cactus because it is a true representation of the tool itself.” AG replied, “I agree! But what should we make it out of?” They both thought about it for 23.4982 seconds and all of a sudden you could see the invisible lightbulb appear over their heads.

Off they went, down the stairs, past the cafeteria, through the turnstiles in the breeze way, out through the perimeter gate and across the street to Ml’s Craft Store. There they collected all the necessary materials and scurried back to their desk to begin the operation.

Gloves, check. Paper as a barrier, check. They were ready to rock and roll. AB began applying the green coats of paint to the wooden body until the optimal coverage was reached.  Next came the full assembly process. AB yelled, “Green Body!” AG handed it to her. AB yelled, “Flower Pot!” AG handled it to her. AB yelled again, “Super Glue!” AG handed it to her.

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Next came the facial recognition of the mascot. AG asked, “Is this a happy mascot or a sad mascot?” AB confirmed, “Definitely a happy but goofy mascot.” So they continued the assembly operations with an image in mind.

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AB and AG stood back and reviewed the mascot so far. Scratching their heads they said in unison, “Time for the fuzzy part?” Turning towards each other they yelled, “Yes!” and high fived. So off they went, adding more and more fuzzies all over using clear nail polish until the desired amount was added.

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After adding the final touch of a mouth, they both looked at the mascot, tilted their heads to the side until AG said, “He is cute. He has a weird resemblance of George Washington, but I like it!”

AB probed, “Well do you think it is time to name him? What shall we call him?” AG thought a moment before speaking, “What about Prometheus?” AB replied, “What the heck! Does that have anything to do with “the project”?” AG advised, “I don’t know…I guess Prometheus was the protector of mankind so isn’t that like “the project” and it starts with ‘Pro’?” They both went back to thinking of a name. Then it came to them, “let’s call him ‘H’ they agreed.” AG started on the letters and started from the center to ensure perfect symmetry was achieved while moving to the right. AG thought to herself, Wow this looks great! She continued now from the center to the left. AG pulled the marker away from the flower pot to admire her perfect penmanship. Frightened, she said, “OMG AB I messed up!” Instead of writing there was no H and she instead had created a whole new word! AB busted into laughter. Tears ran down her face as AG began to laugh as well. After a full 60 seconds of laughter they both said, “Well! this will be his name since we cannot erase marker.”

So, ZZZZZ was born instead of “the project”.

AB said, “I love how cool he looks”, touching his fury little head. And then with a blink of an eye, Mascot was accidentally bummed and was falling slowly, rotating over and over until he made contact with the carpeted floor. There he lay with his body separated from his flower pot and his flower pot cracked in 3 different areas. In slow motion, AB reached down and picked him up and they both had gears turning in their head thinking What are we going to do? AG said, “We do have some super glue, I think that will work! Engineering at its finest, we fix things!” Within 28.76501 seconds, it was back in full form.

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AB said, “You know, his pot actually looks like it has some real character now!” They both sat back and admired Mascot. Then something crazy happened! Mascot came to life!!! He said, “Hey AB! Hey AG! Can I borrow your cell phone? I would like to take a selfie of myself to send to my friends.” AB and AG looked at each other timidly and handed Mascot the phone.

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Next, AB and AG packaged Mascot up for his trip to India and they said their goodbyes as they wiped away a few tears.

Remember, when things get tough with “the project”, just look at the mascot. He also had some struggles along the way but with a little super glue and ingenuity, he still was ok and made it to his final destination. Which will be the same for our project journey.

I have no words to describe how touched I am. The kindness and their support is beyond comparison and they both truly represent the strength and the generosity of women!

I would like to end with a big shout out to all my women readers/blogging gang and all those brilliant, and wonderful men, who enrich our lives every day!’

Happy Women’s Day you all!

Spring Has Come Again….

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Winter in this part of the world is officially over and the brief Spring is here. I can like this season had it not been the harbinger of the terrible Indian Summers! Long months of dry heat, followed by humid heat and all round unpleasantness lie ahead of me. When I add that to all the unnecessary complications and ensuing sadness in my personal sphere, and grueling work hours, I am just about ready to give on everything and become a hermit in the Mountains! But such is life, and after the Summer, there shall be another Autumn/Winter, pretty much like after all the turmoil in my life, there will some moments of joy and peace! Besides, my work is enriching and there are always good books to distract, entertain and soothe!

March brings with the usual dilemma of too many books and too little time! I am loving Herodotus’s The Histories, that I am reading with Cleo and Ruth, as part of the Well Educated Mind Reading Event. While both the ladies, have finished/shall finish the book, I make real slow progress, but I am loving it, so I do not mind! I also continue with The Pickwick Papers Read Along and I am so very glad O came up with the idea of reading it a serialized manner, because, every month, when I stop,there is anticipation and eagerness about what happens next which we as readers are deprived when reading in one go, in a consolidated novel form! I am also continuing my attempt to read more Indian History, with The Hindu by Wendy Dongier. This too is a slow read, but a good read and I guess I am just very grateful that I have time to read at all, these last couple of weeks being what they have been. I am also hoping to read Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol should Cleo read the same. Gogol has been a favorite of my grandfather and father, but I have never read his work, so this may be a good place to try and discover what fascinated my Dad and Grandpa! I am also reading The Perpetual Curate by Margaret Oliphant. Ever since reading Miss Majoriebanks by Mrs. Oliphant, I have been wanting to read more of her works and I am so glad to have finally gotten hold of one of her works. I also bought Under The Deodars by Rudyard Kipling. when I bought The Perpetual Curate. I do not like Kipling per se – imperialists, racist and many other ists, but somehow Deodars, which quintessentially  are the trees that seem to represent the Himalayas, which everyone knows is my spiritual home and I bought it simply on this whimsical reason! At least I will dream of the cool mountains as I prepare for the furnace like heat on the plains! My final purchase and book I am already loving is Amy Tan’s Saving The Fish From Drowning. Ms. Tan always a favorite and this book so far, does not disappoint! I am sure there will be more books I will be reading as I wander along, which I cannot even seem to see as of now and of course, all of you shall of my reading adventures.

That’s all for today folks!

 

The Welsh Prince & The English King

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Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman had been lying dormant in my Kindle for more than 3 years. I would start and stop, barely making it beyond the first 20 odd pages over 900 days, never really finding it gripping enough to pursue further; despite it being a work of Historical Fictions, which as all know is my especial weakness. Somehow, the work did not seem to settle with me  and it lay abandoned for years! However recently,  as work pressure kept increasing, I looked about for an easy but not particularly frivolous read, and Here Be Dragons again came up as I dug through my collection. An ever optimist, I thought I will give the novel yet another try, my umpteenth plus one attempt! And this time, surprise, surprise, I succeeded!

The novel is set in 13th century Wales and England, tracing the life of the foremost Prince of Wales, Llewelyn and his work in uniting the split kingdom of Wales into one united nation. The story begins with 10 year old Llewelyn who is trying adjust to the counties of England, homesick for the wildness of his native Wales and angry at the murder of his father by his uncles, in a bid to conquer Northern Wales, which was ruled by the  former. His mother had now remarried into the powerful Corbet clan and while he had a kindly step father, Llewelyn yearned for his homeland. Opportunity finally come by way of the death of his mother’s brother and which brings the family back to Wales and it is at this point the 14 year old Llewelyn begins his bid for his inheritance in Northern Wales with sights much higher of uniting and ruling one undivided Wales! Across the border, trouble is brewing in England. Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s sons are at conflict with each other, in the pursuit of the English crown. Death and wars, eliminate all Princes, until the contest is down to only two – the legendary Richard and John. John, the errant  young Prince knows he can never match up to the military genius of his brother, and instead intrigues and plots for the crown he desperately wants, often failing and seeking intervention of Eleanor’s for a pardon from his powerful brother. Among such changing political dynamics, John discovers he has an illegitimate daughter from a  Norman nobelwoman who is now dead and whose family refuses to take any accountability of the child. John brings this 5 year old girl, Joanne to his establishment and brings her up as his daughter, showering her with love and care, through his marriage to Isabelle, a girl barely two years older to Joanne and through his ascendancy to the throne of England when Richard dies during yet another battle for the Holy Crusade. Joanne, often neglected and berated by her mother, thrives in the affection that she now receives and her heart and loyalty to John brooks no hindrances to her father’s wishes even when the she receives the alarming news of her father having betrothed her to the Llewelyn, at the age of 14, exiling her to a land she does not know and a language she does not understand. As she ventures into this new life and land, she discovers, an extraordinary land and an extraordinary man, who now claims her affections and loyalty, by the sheer kindness and goodness as he helps her navigate through the intricacies of the Welsh court and culture. However as tension, increases between John and Llewelyn, Joanne will be forced to take sides, and make choices between the two men, who form the very pillars of her life!

I am so glad that I finally managed to read this novel. While the whole tagging of “historical romance” initially put me off, I realized as I read through the pages, that not only was this tagging incorrect but misleading! Ok, so there is romance between Llewelyn and Joanne, but it is just one of the many other elements of the book. Somewhere around page 200 or so, they get married and there is brief romance, but after that, the book is about the life they built together, the children and the dynamics between Joanne and Llewelyn’s step son and of course, the extremely volatile and constant changing politics in England, including the epoch making signing of Magna Carta and the recognition of Wales as a independent kingdom. Ms. Penman provides deep insight into history with details on who, what, where and why. She wonderfully crafts out the characters . with much sympathy and understanding. Her King John is both a wonderful father/husband and  a kind hearted liege lord and at the same time  he is also an intriguing distrustful autocratic ruler. The central character of Llewelyn is of course absolutely magnificent – a brilliant military leader, a great political mind, with incredible maturity and patience, whose of love of life sweeps away not only the fictional characters, but also the reader. The other supporting characters, including Isabella, Richard, the other illegitimate son of John, Rhys and Catherine are very well drawn out and support the main cast brilliantly. The only person I could not really understand was Joanne – while I sympathized with the orphan and I understood the divided loyalties of a 15 year old, her later actions, which I understand are actually a historical fact, left me completely cold. Ms. Penmen made much effort to do away such blemishes from her character and she succeeds to a great extent , but I guess I have a closed mind and some things to me are beyond understanding. The language is easy to read and the highlighting events of the era are all captured, wonderfully capsuled and presented in wonderful background. Often historical novels, become history books instead of works of fiction, because of the in-depth history, that the authors get into. Ms. Penman manages to find a happy balance between serious history and creative fiction, making this novel a wonderful read!

Its a 800 page chunkster, but I seriously recommend sticking to it till the end!

A Very Special Date

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Raahrarraaahhhh!!! Tara Dum! Tara Dee!!! Roll the drums and bring on the fanfare, for today, ahem! ahem! we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices!!! (Virtual confetti being showered!!!) Yay!!Its the big 5 blogaversary!

It’s been 5 years since I started this blog after being rather disgusted over a over-hyped thing I saw at the mall on Valentine’s Day. As most know, 5 years down the line, my thoughts have not changed much as was evident from my last post. Oh! Well…everything changes and nothing does. But not really!

Over the last 5 years I have gained so much that I could scarcely believe was possible when I started out that February morning of 2012! I have written more blogs not only for myself but also for many other sites. I have felt myself improve as a writer and in the process become a more evolved individual. I have a read more books and ventured into literary spheres which I would have scarcely ventured into had it not been for all of you opening up the erudite vistas for me. I have read such a variety of non fiction, classics and poetry than I would have thought possible in February 2012, forcing me out of my comfort zone and making me look at the world at large in whole different perspective! I have read Metamorphosis by Ovid and Bewoulf because of Cleo. I have read science fiction because of Stefanie and found innumerable lost authors, thanks to Jane who has a knack for finding these authors. There are sooooo many others who have made me read so many different things! You all have helped me not only read more but also do things that I would have not thought possible from participating in marathons to cooking yumilious carrot ginger soup!! You have made me grow in all possible ways! Most importantly, I have made some awesome friends – friends I have not met, but who have stood by me through thick and thin, through deaths and dumpings and cheered me on when I was promoted or took one an adventurous road trip. Through 1000 miles of geography and cultures that separate us, they came together as a bunch of kindred souls while helping me navigate through the choppy waters of life! Finally my readers, thank you for sticking around and reading my blah-blah. I am sure you do not always like what I write and may often be bored, but thank you for sticking around and reading anyways!

Since I was/am feeling all sentimental anyway, I thought I will complete the trip to the very end and feel nostalgic as well. Therefore I went back and read some of my older posts and thought I will share some of them with you, especially the ones which most seemed to have enjoyed and were also kind of personal blogging milestones –

  1. Satire be my song….List of 10 best satires from all time – February 19th 2012 – One of my very fast posts, about things which I liked the best – books!
  2. Love and Mutiny in the Time of British Raj – July 1 2012 – I begin to get into the groove of book reviews.
  3. The Year Through Posts -December 7th 2014 – Inspired by Jane, this seemed a perfect way to wrap the year!
  4. Defining Style – An Alternative Perspective – February 17 2015 – Where I venture out of bookish blogs and start posting for other sites!
  5. Celebrating Freedom – The Home and The World Read Along – July 19th 2016 – I host my very first Read Along!

It’s been such wonderful 5 years of learning, fun and cherished memories! Thank you for being part of this wandering with me and for enriching my life with your ideas, enthusiasm and thoughts!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Month, One Rant & Some Old Books

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The first month of 2017 is now over and to think 2017 had started! Time flies when you especially need more time! Don’t ask me why!

Anyhow February is here and I always have mixed feelings about this month. I get my annual bonus which is GREAT! Winter is still around, albeit to a lesser degree! Then this month, marks the celebration of Hindu Festival where we worship the Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati – my personal favorite goddess, especially since the Goddess of Wealth, Lakhshmi is determine NEVER to look at me! But this month also brings on all the yucks and ughs related to the much hyped and completely commercialized Valentine’s day! I mean why the HELL do you need a special day to declare your love; I mean if you are in love with someone, why do you need to wait for bloody Feb 14th to express the same! Even the most sane and rational creatures become ridiculous to the point I do not want to know them. For instance, one of the most rational individuals that I know with brains of a genius and a heart of gold has suddenly taken to social network posting love coated honey dripped messages for his fiance which makes me want to take out my Kate Middleton barf bag!! Ugh! I mean do not get me wrong, I am a die hard romantic and I love this couple who are two of most wonderful people I know and have the good fortune to call friends, but WHY the HELL does the 500+ friends on FB have to sit by and listen to your undying and unending declarations of love, considering they will be attending you wedding in less than a month and witness it live anyway??? I am not being Groucho Marx but this day is beyond ridiculous! The other day I went to buy a dress for some social event I need to attend and all I could see was red and purple….I mean really? The half brained sales assistant infact tried to see me a red velvet monstrosity saying it was perfect for Valentines’s assuming naturally if I am buying a dress in this season, well duh! it has to for the stupid Valentine’s day!!!! What the hell is wrong with you people? Ok…deep breaths! Rant over! February also means Spring which is like two weeks in this geography will follow and then….shudder!horror! Summers are here! Oh! I need to migrate to some colder climate, I CANNOT take this heat any longer!

Atleast there are books to tide me over! Unfortunately I am as I had foreseen at the beginning of the year, very limited time of reading and when I do find time to read, I have very little energy to tackle a classic as much as I love reading it! My brain aches for some light reading and I am constantly worried that I will lose all my intellect if I keep perusing, you know light weight material! So I march forward, trying to complete The Histories with Herodutus. I am also trying to get a move on Captivity by György-Spiró, though like The Histories, my progress is beyond slow! My consolation – well, slow and steady, the tortoise did win the race! I am also loving Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus; this alternate historic telling of India’s past is very interesting, though I seem to disagree with her at several junctures. I also continue with The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, the only reading event I seem not to be lagging behind. As of now I am simply sticking to calling out these three books since I am sure, I will be randomly reading up other books per my time and mood and what I see on other’s blog! Besides the fact that this month has less days, means more work at work to meet those deadlines!! Can I simply fast-forward the next 1o months and reach December??? I guess not! Oh! Well! Onward Christian Solider and all that!

After my rant, it is only fair that I leave you with some laughs –

Reading Non-Stop

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Whoever it was coined that “Ask and you shall receive” really knew what they were talking about. (I am really not sure that God made such an injunction, I do not quite think he/she works in pithy saying, but then one never knows!)  Anyhow, my point, there is a lot of truth in that statement, though instances often belie us! But then there are times when you actually get what you wished and then you kick yourself wondering why the hell did you not wish for that million dollars that you need? But still one must be grateful for that one instance being gratified and keep their fingers crossed, in more such events coming true.

Now I am sure what this looooooong prologue  entail? Never fear; enlightenment cometh thy way! (You have to allow me the joy of being a drama queen). Like I had mentioned in my previous posts, the work hours are getting longer and longer with no end in sight, and in fact will not be in sight for next several months to come.Add to that there are domestic complications, including the electric fuse which blew and the wiring of my apartment needed to be re-wired. Top if off, I am in midst of personal quandary, the solution to which is completely unbeknownst to me; let alone unbeknownst, I do not even know where to begin to find the pathway to the answers! Needless, to say, I am not in a happy place; atleast not in a peaceful place and I need a break – the kind of break that i really thrive on – the escape to the bookland variety! Considering there are quite a few things crowding in my mind and diverting me from focusing on the books I want to read, I thought a readathon like event would set the stage and motivate me to get going and gain some momentum on my reading and take my mind of the sundry! So I trawled the internet and after same lame ducks, I hit jackpot.

Season’s Reading is hosting a two week long Readathon, from Jan 16th to Jan 29th called A Winter’s Respite. It starts at 12:00 am Monday the 16th, and ending at 11:59 pm on Sunday the 29th. The great part about this Readathon is you can join up anytime during this period and there are no mandatory reading requirement, as long as you read and have some fun along the way.

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This is just what the doctor ordered, some company for focused, albeit relaxed reading! So I sign up with joy and list below some of the books, I am planning to make significant headway with, before Monday takes over –

  1. The Histories by Herodotus – I am reading this with Cleo and Ruth and many others, as part of The Well Educated Reading List for Histories and I am SIGNIFICANTLY behind!
  2. The Hindus by Wendy Doniger – Yet another History and this one controversial at that. Banned in India, I bought the copy well before all the fire and fury was raked up and then because of the uber hype, I gave it up for a later read! (Everybody was pretending to read the book, without actually any idea of what Dr. Doniger was saying and it was “cool” to support or refute on very shallow understanding of the subject!!) Now is a good time to rev-visit the book finally and I look forward to the this pioneering and exploratory work on the Ancient Hindu culture!
  3. The Curse of Mohenjodaro by Maha Khan Philips – Since I am reading ancient Indian History, it made sense to mix it up with a easy historical read and vary the pace a bit. Based off recommendation from a friend, I am going to see what the author makes about a civilization, which remains a mystery!
  4. Politics and The English Language by George Orwell – This is not a book but an essay by George Orwell on the politics of using English as a primary language. I have Cleo to thank for this one!!
  5. Lucky Jim by Kinsley Amis – Just because I need some laughter among all the serious reading!

That’s the plan for now! I bid all of thee adieu with promises of updates every few hours!

The French Girl & The German Boy

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After much deliberation and delay, I finally delved into All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Yes, I am aware I am really late for the party, but atleast I got here. This is especially significant, considering, I usually give prize winning novels a wide berth. Anyhow, I spent the two weekend nights all being super comfortable in my bed, drinking cups of Rose tea and reading this 2014 Pulitzer prize winning work!

The book is set during the World War II, briefly covering the year of 1934, before delving into the events that occurs 1940-1945. The novel tells the story of Marie-Laurie, a young blind girl, the daughter to the locksmith to the Natural History Museum in Paris. Marie-Laurie spends time in her father’s museum, talking to the curator and reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, knowing of her father’s love and care for her. Her orderly life is shattered and brought  to a standstill, when Hitler’s Germany invades France and she and her father are forced to flee Paris, in wake of the occupation. In search of refuge of some kind, her father finally reached Saint Malo, the home of her great uncle. Her great Uncle, an erudite brilliant man, has shut himself up from the world, being afraid of shadows, since his experience in World War I. The father and daughter are however kindly looked after by the house keeper and days begin to melt into month, as Marie-Laurie tries to adjust herself to her new surroundings. Across the border, in a orphanage, Werner and Jutta, the orphaned children of a mine worker, listen to distant voices in a hand made radio, made by Werner,that tells them of miracles of science and wonders of the world. Wener’s brilliance with radio sciences and engineering is soon discovered by those in power and he is sent to an elite school to get trained to mold the future of Aryan Germany. It is at this school, that in the angst to ensure, he does not end up with a life like his father, he makes choices, that he knows Jutta will never forgive and which in his heart he knows is never acceptable. However, these choices seem to drag him down until he ends up in Saint Malo, with one chance to redeem all his past.

Now come the part about how I liked the book…well, I liked it a lot!! I thought the descriptions whether of the sea or of being stuck inside the rubble was mesmeric. The prose of the novel, lifted me and seared my soul and painted some breathe taking pictures. I loved how each character was drawn out, not by the descriptions that the author wrote but by their actions and how each of the character was etched out and stood out clearly and independently of others. I loved how Marie-Laurie’s life was made independent of her visual inabilities and made her do brave things, without any dependency on any other character.  I loved the subtleties in the characters like Etienne LeBlanc and Frank Volkheimer. It was wonderful getting to know them and see their lives unravel. The plot deviates from the usual boy meets girl phenomena and delves into relationships that are just as rich and yet cannot be defined by the standards set by the society. However despite all the brilliance of the book, I cannot help but feel that in the end, Werner’s fate was a bit of cliche; like he had to made to pay for all the betrayals in a de-la grande style. I could not help but feel that Mr. Doerr, kind of treads on the line of Flaubert and Tolstoy in making the fatal flaw, the unforgivable flaw. I somehow cannot help but feel that Werner’s fate had it been a bit different, would have been less maudlin and made more sense. Finally, speaking of fatal flaws, I have a one – that is never of quite liking a historical fiction, if it is inaccurate in its facts. Mr. Doerr unfortunately ends up making a minor error, but to me, it glares like a red hot iron, taking away much of the credibility of the book. In page 135, Kindle Print, Etienne talks about listening to broadcasts from Pakistan. The chapter is set in 1940, full 7 years before Pakistan came into being!!! How can the author not check his facts? How can his editor ignore such a blatant mistake? Or is it to the North, events of the South do not matter? Mr. Doerr should know that while many French, American and German soldiers died, there were more than 2 million Indian troops who also fought defending a nation, that was not theirs, fighting for a cause they had no say in, all because as a country they belonged to the Great British Empire. Their identity and their heritage is disparaged by such errors, and their efforts negated, by the complete ignominy that is assigned to them by the careless stroke of the pen!

The First of the First….

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Ah! Well, the much looked forward to December is now gone and January beckons! Without breaking into my usual song and dance histrionics about the misery of getting back to routine and moaning the loss of much beloved vacation time, I must say, I do not feel too bad, not too perky either, but more like zen, knowing that this too shall pass!

And while it passes, it’s time to make plans for 2017. The plan for 2017 is to have no plans! I mean it!! I have huge mammoth work effort coming up that will test my organizational and project management skills and this project could make or break my career. Therefore for this year alone, the only place I want to focus on planning is at work! That’s it! Everything else I will take it as it comes; the idea will be to continue improving myself, like run more marathons and maybe do a trek and of course, write more; but outside of that, there is flow chart and project plan to stick too!

This campaign naturally extends to my reading plans for the year! I decided late in 2016, I was too involved in trying to track reading plans and this year with work going through the roof, there is no way I will be able to do justice to any reading challenges or plans. Instead I will read like I used to initially, picking up what I like and joining my friends when they read something really interesting or host an event that really gets me excited! Therefore in a stark departure to several years of define reading challenges, this year, I stand independent and do not join any!

Having said all of that, as far as books and temptations are concerned, I will always be TEMPTED to join some or the other reading event. In that spirit, I will be joining Dolce Bellezza as she hosts the read along for Captivity by Gyorgy Spiro for this month. It’s a historical chunkster set during Roman Empire, narrated from the point of view of a Roman Jew as he captures the time between Christ’s death and the outbreak of the Jewish Wars. With such a premise, can I but say, that I am really really excited about this one!! Jane is hosting Margery Sharp Day and since she introduced me to this brilliant author last year, I have become a Sharp devotee. Naturally, there is no way I will miss this event to celebrate her works and I will be joining Jane and other to read Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp. If life seemed simple, so far, I have a tendency to make things a twinge more complex and therefore I will be joining Ruth and Cleo as they navigate The Well Educated Mind Histories Reading List and kick start the project with reading Histories by Herodotus. There is no way in the world, I will finish this book in January alone and I am sure, I this reading project with my ideas of reading some Eastern histories will turn into a 10 year effort! Like I said, complication is my middle name! Besides all of this, I have finally gotten around to reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I have also started on Ravenspur, Part 4 of the War of Roses Series by Conn Iggulden. Finally, I still continue with the serialized reading of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, as part of O’s brilliant and innovative Reading Event.

So much for not having a plan….if this does not look, challenging, I am not sure what is. But then the idea was to read good books, and good books are never easy to read. Therefore, without further ado, let’s get started!

Happy Reading All!

The End of the Year Wrappings….

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Another year goeth by and yet another year to make new beginnings with! What did we accomplish in these 12 months and what do we hope to accomplish in this new year?? I am not a resolution person and from experience I know that whatever I propose, God/Fate disposes completely differently, therefore it makes total sense to make no plans and go with the flow! Instead I look back on 2016 and think of all that was done and if I may say, I deserve a pat on my back; while I did not do a lot, I did do some stuff that atleast showed some traction on my self improvement trajectory –

  1. I ran a marathon – ok! only 5km, but hey I am 115 Kgs and managing 5km is a task!
  2. I took 3 major vacations and 3 minor getaways, including a 14 days road trip into deep Himalayas. A year in travels CANNOT get better than this!
  3. I got a short story published!! Yes, finally I got something printed! So its not a big journal and the work is not one of my best, but hey! I am now an officially published person!
  4. I made some wonderful new friend, friends who are akin to my soul sisters, who have encouraged me run to marathons, keep writing till I get published and in general become more rational in life!
  5. Most importantly, I read and read and read!

On that happy note, as is my norm, I share below, the 12 best reads of the year as is my norm, with wishes for an even better 2017 for all of us –

  1. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I have been in perpetual terror of Woolf ever since I read Orlando when 15. However, Ali was hosting a Woolfalong and I was also participating in the Women’s Classical Literature Reading Event hosted by the Classic Club and this seemed as good a time to plunge in. And I am ever so glad I did; with it’s subtle narrative of following the thoughts of the protagonists and the sense of time passing and some of the most brilliant prose. I fell in love with the book, to say the very least!
  2. Miss Marjorie Banks by Margaret Oliphant – I had this book in my collection forever and now I sit back and wonder what the hell was I doing waiting for ages to finally get around to reading this one! Another one of Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event read, this wonderful narrative of the Victorian town of Carlingsford and Miss Bank’s effort to be a comfort to her father and the residing social priestess of her town is a hilarious and at the same time a gentle telling of things that were not quite right in the Victorian society! One of the best books I have ever read!
  3. Metamorphoses by Ovid – I would have NEVER EVER read this one if it was not for Cleo! Cleo with her enthusiasm and pep talk kept me going and I discovered a book that I had dreaded and ended up loving. This is an epic poem which is a compendium of all Greek and Roman legend has violence, greed, sacrifice, courage and every other element of human drama that come together to form a grand tour-de-force that simply sweeps you away!
  4. The Fortunes of the Rougons by Emile Zola – Another one of those books I did not want to read and ended by up loving it. This first book in a series comprising of 20 novels, traces the rise of the Rougan family from Plassans during the coup of 1851. Not a happy book, with hardly any redeemable characters, this book yet manages to share a story of humanity and deep insights into the human  heart! The only word I could use to describe it is profound!
  5. The Gypsy in the Parlour by Margery Sharp – This one was another one of those great finds thanks to Jane! The trials of the Sylvesters in their Victorian farm with new wives and wayward sons, seen through the eyes of a distant 12 year old cousin, is a retelling of an old tale of good versus bad with wonderful plot, characters that you wish were actually in existence and an end that kept you on the hook. Margery Sharp showed that with the right crafting of the plot, the old stories of human relationships will endure and even become page turners!
  6. The Rose and The Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray – A children’s tale that I picked up on a whim, while looking around for something different to read! Did I stumble on a gold mine or what!! Biting satire with hilarious dialogues with absolutely marvelous cast of Princes, Princess and amulets, this one was written originally as a fireside pantomime, and continues to be a complete enteratainer some 150 years on!
  7. The Dairy of Nobody by by George Grossmith and illustrations by Weedon Grossmith – If I have a find of the year, it is this book! Why in the world is this book not more popular is quite beyond me. This is hilarious, in fact uproarious narrative of Charles Pooter, who has just bought a new house and is adjusting to his life in suburban 1892 England, with some aid from his friends, his difficult son and his exasperated wife! if there was ever a laugh out loud book, this is the ONE!
  8. Up The Country by Emily Eden – My favorite non fiction read of the year! This wonderful travel journal, of Emily Eden kept while her brother was the Governor General of India, is a lovely description of an era of British Raj and of a time gone by. Free of prejudices, and with more insights, than her brother ever displayed, this book is a wondrous read into what the past really looked and felt like!
  9. Shadow of The Moon by MM Kaye – I know and I know! This is my all time favorite and I should not have included this and all that! But every time I read, this breathtaking saga of Winter de Balletros and Captain Alex Randall, in the backdrop of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, I am left breathless and mesmerized! Kaye who was born and for many years lived in India, poured her love for the land and her people in this masterful novels about tolerance, sacrifice and human courage! They really do write books like any more!
  10. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore – My first ever hosted read-along, with the kind support of many of my friends in the Blogging world! The story of Nikhil, Bimala and Sandeep in the backdrop of Indian Indpendence Movement, tells a complex narrative about freedom, responsibility, choices and a woman’s true emancipation, at a time when India woman had in fact no place of their own!
  11. The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – I am NOT a science person, but this book, another one purchased on a whim,.is a wonderful, engaging and at times downright funny telling of , well everything! How this universe, earth and we, the living all came into existence. It makes you appreciate the wonder of the earth, read more about the Big Bang and sit back and wonder at the genius called Bill Bryson!
  12. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas – This is one of those re-readings that classify under “I know”. I know this is a classic, I know there is nothing better than this yarn of revenge and forgiveness and I personally find no better philosophy to live by than those enshrined in this book – “All human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.”

I know I restrict myself to 12 books alone, but this has been a very very interesting year, and I wanted to make an honorable and critical mention about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Here was a book and an author I was not ready touch with a barge pole, until Stefanie came along with her wonderful review. Now we all know, I trust Stefanie, so I picked it up and ended up receiving some very practical advise, about being a creative person, about persisting in your craft and about capturing the moment, without wondering about when/what/where will the rewards coming in! This is perhaps the first self-helpish book that really helped, saw me pick up the pen and write more and genrally recommend it to all other creative folks!

That just about sums of my 2016 adventure!

Thank You for being part of this bloggish journey, thank you for your diligent and thoughtful comments/likes and advise. I am better reader/writer, because you all decided to help me out! Here’s wishing you all a fabulous and brilliant 2017!

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be

The Year in Posts and Books…

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I first learnt of this kind of blog posts years back from Jane and since then every year, after gentle nudge from her post, I would suddenly remember, that it was that time of year, to sit back and look at how this bloggish year went. It goes without saying that since I am irredeemably in love with reading, the blogs should be all about books; but as I look back, there are some interesting surprises! Therefore I present without further ado, the first lines from the first blog posts of this past 12 months….

January – Its A New Day

Well, December is gone and January is here and before we know another December will be here…I am trying to cheer myself that If January is here, can December be far?!

February – Money and Marriage in Cumbria

I am devoted and I mean DEVOTED to Anthony Trollope.

March –  The Pickwick Paper Read Along

Many moons ago, some of the greatest Victorian authors, like the worthy Mr. Charles Dickens, Mr. Wilkie Collins, Mrs. Margaret Oliphant and Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, wrote some of their best works not in a single bound novel, but as serialized installments in various magazines.

April – Holiday Hangover, April Reading and Therapy

Hello! Hello! I am back! And while I am overjoyed to be back in the world of cyberspace and virtual interactions, I must say, I soooooo do not look forward to the Monday! But that is a bridge that I will cross and dream of August again!

May – May-ish Reads

Ah! May…..the fire breathing months on Indian plains, where the sun burns and earth scorches and you wonder if hell is like this! Joy!

June – About Summers & Reading 

I am seeing many posts around the internet, celebrating Summer! Reading and Summer seems a most conducive combination; reminds of my summer vacation from schools, with 2 and a half month of bliss, reading and eating!

July – An Act

I was planning to share my July reading plans but decided to share this instead…

August – The Home & The World Read Along – Indian History Part 1

As many of you are aware, I am hosting The Home and The World Read Along for the Month of August, both to celebrate Indian Independence which happens to fall on 15th Aug but also to mark the centenary anniversary of this masterpieces publication

September – Come September

Yay!! September arriveth and summer goeth! If that is not a reason for me to celebrate I do not know what is!

October – October and Reading 

October is HERE! Yes…October is REALLY HERE!! So what if it feels like I am inside a boiler and there are no winds with a hint of chill and no delicious smell of wood fire smoke signaling the onset of Winter, but October the calendar assures me is here!

November – This & That

Its been an absolutely couple of miserable weeks. 

December – The Most Glorious Month

Yay! December is here….the season to rejoice! Off with the old, and on with the new month!

Its been an interesting year, with reading, writing, traveling and sobering experiences. It’s been an enriching and informative year….it’s been a good year!