#ModernClassics: The Other books of the bestsellers

Most of the great authors have more than one amazing book in them. But many authors are known for only one or two of their bestsellers and many of their other great work ends up in the piles in library and in the homes of few admirers. But thanks to the modern classics series by Penguin, I came across the amazing other books of the bestselling authors:

 

1. Burmese Days by George Orwell:

burmese days

George Orwell made name for himself with the great books like Animal farm and 1984 but his debut novel, Burmese days is unnoticed by many readers. Set in Burma during British Occupancy, the book brings out interesting characters from Oriental world and the divide between the east and the west. Orwell himself served as a sepoy in the British East India Company and was positioned in Burma. Though the point of view of the author is western in every aspect but the detail of local life shows that what Orwell is actually capable of.

[ Bonus ReadBook Review of Down and Out in Paris and London by Geroge Orwell. Wonderful memoir on his struggling times in Paris and London after we quit the services with British East India Company ]

Orwell's memoir of his time in Paris and London

Orwell’s memoir of his time in Paris and London

2. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

the dharma bums

Jack Kerouac had an interesting writing career. Though his peers made more money and critical fame than he did, but this did not stop Jack from writing amazing books. His book, On the Road is the most popular of all his books. He also managed to sell the movie rights for it.

3. The tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

tales from the jazz age

Vintage cover of the Tales of the Jazz Age

This is the collection of the short stories by F Scott Fitzgerald . These stories were written for literary magazines of that era that became popular. He used to fondly called writing for these magazines as whoring but had little or no option to survive without them. One of the stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was also adopted for the major Hollywood Film featuring Brat Pitt.

Movie poster of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Movie poster of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button

4. Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway

Men without Women

There is hardly any writing or literary cour that does not mention Ernest Hemingway. His writings has shaped the craft of modern literature and one can see his influence in the preceding writers. In this book, he brings stories from the continental towns and villages, focusing on the man on job or in play. This book demonstrate the literary display of Hemingway’s craft.

 

This is the last post of the modern classics series. Hope you enjoyed it. Here are the other posts from the series:

Books that Defined The Modern Classics 

Speakeasy- Jazz Age Part II

The Jazz Age

Since I love this era and there is so much I want to talk about it , so I will keep random posting about it.

Books That Defined The Modern Classics

The term modern classic is conflicting in itself. My understanding of the “Modern Classic ” is the book that is neither a modern, nor a classic and at the same time is both the modern and the classic. It is somewhere in middle of everything . For me the book that defined the “Modern Classic” is On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

On the road

Nothing says “Modern Classic “like “On the Road “

This book had both worlds. A scenic background of conflicting 60s , but the characters and their views that you can instantly relate. If you have not read the book but have seen Kristen Stewart starer movie based on the book, with the same tittle, then you may not buy my word instantly. I am not going to argue that the book was better than the movie because that is always true. I think that the movie didn’t stand anywhere near the league of the book and reading the book again will change your opinion.

Also in the Series :

Speakeasy- Jazz Age Part II

The Jazz Age

On the road movie poster

Movie failed the book. The star cast of promising and art-direction was reasonable- I always see this movie as a lost opportunity

Another book that made Modern Classics as its own is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I talk about this book a lot, so before you give that expression of not again, I want to assure you that even the second read of this book is equally timeless and joyous experience as the first time. ( You can read my musing on the book on this link :)

The book cover

Timeless and one of the best ambassador of the term Modern Classic is Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Though Modern Classics is the series initiated by Penguin publishing and commercially it maybe mean only the books published by Penguin only but my consideration is wider than that. ( I have also heard some criticism by readers that Penguin has launched this series to hike the prices of the books that should have been cheaper or even available for free because of their age. As long as Penguin keep printing them in wonderful covers, I am okay with them making some money off it). Ayn Rand released her 1943 classic with The Fountainhead and still I find 20 year olds calling Howard Roark as their hero. The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger and Anne Frank’s Dairy of the young girl  were other other two non-penguin published books that fits the bill of being modern classics and there were also the books like “To Kill A Mocking bird ” by Harper Lee that created the league of it’s own.

Catch 22 cover

Catch-22 is a cult book. The catch-22 also entered English dictionaries after the success of the book

 

To kill a mocking bird

There is no reading club, library or anything literary thing that can be complete without this book

There were also other great writers that were challenging the entire notion of literature of their respective era. George Orwell’s Animal Farm changed the way satire words & Catch 22 by Joseph Heller gave new perceptive to the war fictions.

Book cover of Animal Farm

From the sub-continent flavor, R. K Narayan made international strides with The Guide and the house of Mister Bishwas did the same for V.S Naipaul in early 60s.

I will love to hear your favorite modern classic books.

 

The Modern Classics Series

This is my latest Blog series where I want to discuss the influence and the love of the Modern classics in art, popular culture and mainly literature.

Speakeasy- Jazz Age Part II

Pre-Prohibition Speakeasy

The Modern Classics Series

This is my latest Blog series where I want to discuss the influence and the love of the Modern classics in art, popular culture and mainly literature.

Also in the series:

The Jazz Age

Speakeasy

No matter which town you live in, or you are travelling to, you will always find a vintage themed bar. Many of them call themselves Speakeasy. Speakeasy now refers to the Prohibition Era themed bars. But originally they meant something else.

The origin of Speakeasy is engraved in the culture of the jazz age. The years between 1920 and 1933 was infamous as prohibition days in America. The new constitutional amendment prohibited the sale and purchase of alcohol or any form of liquor in public places. However, there were no restrictions in the personal consumption or possession of liquor. Anti- Salon movement and the high cases of alcohol abuse led to this decision by the congress.

Speakeasy were the illegal bars set up during prohibition. They functioned as ” well-known secret “because most of these bars had worked out kick backs for the local police. They also went with the name of “Blind Pig ” or “Blind tiger”. Speakeasy were responsible in bringing “the underground” culture. Underground bands were the bands that played in these bars. Lots of artists, writers and journalists were frequent in these places. Speakeasies had so much of Jazz in them and Jazz had so much of speakeasy in it’s personality.

Another contribution of these bars was towards the popularity of  Sweet or Fruit based Cocktails . In 19th century, there was flood of the pure liquor based cocktails (Pure gin martini for example) but due to bad quality of liquor in circulation during prohibition, fruit juices and sweeteners were added in the drinks, which saw the trend of these drinks. This era also saw the rise in the trend of “home brews” in America as it was not prohibited by the law.

There were many social criticism also of the prohibition. One of the main issues was the rise of organized crimes and corruption in the local bodies. Domestic trouble and alcohol related violence only dipped marginally but the social cost of Organized crimes and goons was too big for America. Poor quality of liquor cause many deaths and health related issues as well. Another major concern was the opportunity cost to the American Government in the tax revenues from alcohol. In 1929, USA slipped in to “The Great Depression” and many argued that the Government could have used extra dough from the liquor money. In 1933, the 19th amendment lifted the Prohibition on alcohol (in some states, the Prohibition stayed for few more months)

India also has it’s share of Speakeasy themed bars. PCO, in Vasant Vihar in New Delhi comes closest to it’s American counterpart. Here are some pictures.

pco New Delhi

From outside, it looks like Public Calling Booth or PCO – maintaining the underground theme of the place

PCO New Delhi

Outside you have to say the pass code to enter the place. This is more ceremonial in practice as most of the Speakeasy used to have passwords

pco 3

PCO pictures are in courtesy from mova1.net.in

Do you know any more Speakeasy in India or in your country? Or any interesting stories on speakeasy in general, please do share :)

The Jazz Age

Still from Mid-night in Paris by Woody Allen

Still from Mid-night in Paris by Woody Allen

The Modern Classics Series

This is my latest Blog series where I want to discuss the influence and the love of the Modern classics in art, popular culture and mainly literature.

The Roaring 20s

Something amazing happened in America in 1920s. This era gladly abandoned the royalties, dignities and elites from the previous one and adopted the romanticized and mythological love affair with the unknown. The popular culture was flooded with passionate, loud, bit phony but lovable characters. This era changed the music, the literature, the fashion and the women.The poster boy of this era was F.Scott Fitzgerald, who released his first book, This Side of Paradise in 1920.

The central character of the book  is Amory Blaine, a narcissist Mid-western who joins Princeton University amid big promises but becomes disillusion with failed romance and army duty during first world war. This book is almost biographical, the thing I realized much later through the book.

The Old Jacket of the book. I was searching for this jacket in few bookstores with no luck

The Old Jacket of the book. I was searching for this jacket in few bookstores but with no luck

His next book truly defined the Jazz Age. The Great Gatsby sold millions of copies worldwide and was adopted in two major Hollywood projects. Originally this book was not considered a success when it came out. Maybe it was bit ahead of its time. The book’s contribution was not only about the style and substance of the era, but also the commentary on the marginalization of women and expectation from the society. The disillusionment that he portraits in his former book takes a central stage here, with the focus on the materialistic Gatsby, whose American dream was described as “nightmare”.

The most iconic book from this era.

The most iconic book from this era.

The another unique voice from the era was that of Ernest Hemingway. While working as a foreign correspondent in Paris, Hemingway’s novelty was the unseen of the world and the flattery to unheard of the society. His stories were based in small towns and cafes- from France to Spain to Scotland. His experience in war gave him a unique lens,especially on his notion of “Lost Generation” of artists and writers who got physiologically displaced due to first world war. His two big releases in the era were “The Sun Also Rises” and “A farewell to Arms.”

Hemingway introduced a unique narration that changed the decibel of the fiction

Hemingway introduced a unique narration that changed the decibel of the fiction

 

A farewell to Arms

 

The famous Fitzgerald and Hemingway in Paris picture. Via ernestmillerhemingway.blogspot.com

The famous Fitzgerald and Hemingway in Paris picture. Via ernestmillerhemingway.blogspot.com

While in Europe, Franz Kafka and Conan Doyle were making strides with their amazing creations.  The Castle and The trail by Kafka made sure that he became the most popular Non-English language author of the era while Conan’s new books on Sherlock Holmes made it a great decade of books.

Another form of art that came in popular culture in that era was cartoons. Winnie-The-Pooh made his first appearance but it was The New Yorker Magazine’s first edition on 21st February 1925 that brought America’s very art, culture, humor and literature in the forms of cartoons. Both Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s stories also featured in The New Yorker.

Released on 21st Feb, this is the first ever cover of The New Yorker Magazine

Released on 21st Feb, this is the first ever cover of The New Yorker Magazine

The influence of cartoons may be phased out from the magazine now, but The New Yorker kept influencing the modern fiction. Authors as popular as Truman Capote, Jhumpa Lahiri, Murakami, J.D.Salinger, Stephen King, Ronald Dahl featured their best works for the magazine. Also the influence of magazine in the cultural journalism has been second to none.

Just like The New Yorker magazine, the jazz age is the symbol of the modern culture.

 

Hope you enjoyed the post. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

A still from 2012 adaptation of The Great Gatsby book

A still from 2012 adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

2015- In Books (Thanks Goodreads for keeping the tracks )

 

Goodreads Year in books

Goodreads is definitely one of my favorite website. I visit there everyday, to view what other readers are reading and get inspired to read more. This year, I managed to read 47 so far ( It will be 48 before the year officially ends), and I credit goodreads from where I discovered most of the tittles and filled by To-be-Read list.

 

Here are the books that I have read in 2015 ( Screen short from the goodreads report )

2015 books 1

Books without cover on the above picture
  1. Tamarind History by Sundara Ramaswamy
  2. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Favorite reading moments of 2015

  1. Discovering that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is also an excellent short story writer (Do read his Strange Pilgrims to experience the magic of his short-story writing)
  2. Finally completing Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell after 5 months. Just like well aged whiskey, this book is suggested to enjoy in small pegs.
  3. Speaking of small pegs, Invisible cities by Italo Calvino is a book that you can read a page a day before you sleep. You will be smiling in your dreams, I can assure.
  4. Can the greatest authors of the genre  collaborate together and create a masterpiece? The answer is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
  5.  Finally read the books by Hakuri Murakami and understood why his fans are like his fans (I read 3 books by him this year- none before. So, am I in that club already ? )
  6. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes proved that even tragic memoir can be a fun read too.
  7. The moment when I started reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It is my favorite book of the year.
  8. Naseeruddin Shah‘s candid memoir took me to 70s of film industry and it is the best book from Bollywood by far.

Do share your favorite 2015 reading moments and books. I will love to read your comments. And Merry Christmas everyone.

What is this story about ?

Picture via bvd.se/stories

Picture via bvd.se/stories

When I was younger, the stories always ended with a moral. A lesson with the each story was a compulsive necessity. At first, we were told the morals, and then we were asked to find them. Our stories had kings, queens, magicians, elephants, crows and beggars. The honesty was celebrated, the evil was shamed, the deceiving ones were punished and braves were awarded. Fortunes were overturned, the curses were spelled, the heroes were awakened, the gods were kind and monsters were slayed.

The stories changed as we grew older. The morals were not discussed anymore. No one missed them though because now our stories had adventures and conquests. The hero solved mysteries, undertook brave journey and outwitted the evil plotters. There were wonderlands, galaxies, jungles, deserts and caves. There were also apes, witches, smugglers, murderers and inter-galactic drones. The dogs could talk, the birds delivered the letters, rainbows were the highways- the good always won over evil, the Davids always defected the Goliath. The world was a happy place. But we were still in search of something similar from these stories- if not the morals, but still the virtues of heroes- the victory of good over evil and sense over stupidity.

The later stories demanded more from us as a reader,or was it the other way around?- A meaning, a symbol, or something we could relate with. Often, in these stories, we were part of something that was bigger than the narrative.Stories told something, meant something else and felt something completely different.

But what stories are doing now to us or in that order, what are we expecting from the stories now?  As we grew older, we demanded more from the stories and also stories demanded more from us. Not only the craving for seeking adventure, wisdom, hero’s journey and the inspiration is there but also the meaning and symbol to relate. Now we wanted more. We are looking for the world inside the stories to adopt us. We want to be the refugees inside the universe of the books we read; we want to walk in the shoes of the characters- we just want to borrow the eyes and the mind of the writer.

I trust that stories will keep evolving us and someday, we will be able to contribute in the amazing world of stories.

 

 

Man Bookers’ 2015 Books- Reviews

This year, the Booker’s Shortlist for fiction saw a good variation of books. Fantasy, local legends, historical fiction, diaspora and science fiction.

Every year, I try to read the shortlisted books but I fail to go beyond 3 books. This year also, I have read 3 books, and I am involving a short review of each of  these books in this post.

Bonus Read: Man Booker’s 2015 Shortlist 

A Brief History of Seven Killings 

Book Cover

Book Cover

It was not an easy book to read. There are several narrators who are changing the point of view in every few pages. It is difficult to picture each character clearly but it is not only the changing narrators and point of view which is the biggest problem for this book. To protect the authenticity of the characters, Marlon James incorporated the ghetto language of Jamaica of 1970s.  It might have worked well for him because he was the Booker’s 2015 winner for the Fiction category and is also highly rated elsewhere . His voice is unique but this book becomes a painful read for me. Reading A brief History of Seven Killings was nowhere a pleasurable experience and I rated it only 2 out of 5 stars on the goodreads.

 

The Year of the Runaways 

The book Cover

The book Cover

The year of the runaways by British author Sunjeev Sahota was not available on Kindle and hence ordered a hardbound book. The book came with the recommendation of Salman Rusdie on the cover, that is already good selling for likes of me who admire Mr Rusdie’s works. In one of the interviews, Sunjeev admitted that the first novel he ever read was Midnight’s Children when Sunjeev was 18 and since then “It was like I was making up for lost time”.He did catch up well to get his hero’s endorsement for this book.

This book captures the story of 3 Sikhs and 1 low-caste boy from Bihar who against all odds meet in UK. Their stories are not heroic. There are hardship and sorrows in their life back home and they decide to take an illegal route to immigrate in UK in the expectation of making faster money and returning to their homeland. It is ironic that this book is released during the major immigration crisis and it will be interesting to know how the western readers have received it.  It is fast paced but it is one dimensional-sad narration. There is not multitude of emotions and you know each time how the story is going to end. However, it is good effort by the author and rightly deserves the shortlist. I rated it 3 out of 5 stars on the goodreads.

 

The Fisherman

The first book from Nigeria that I have read

The first book from Nigeria that I have read

Originally, it was my first choice from the Shortlisted books to begin with but at that time, it was neither released in India, nor the kindle edition was available. Written by Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma, who is now resident of New York City, the fisherman is the story of 4 brothers in an Nigerian town whose life change after they go to fishing in the town river. Narrated from the point of view of 9 year old Benjamin, youngest of the pack.  Obioma in few pages sound like Africa’s answer to Khalid Hosseini, that is obviously a compliment to the young author. He managed to mix the mythical and traditional elements in the book, circling around one family but that can also be expanded to commentary to modern African problems- be it social, economical or political.

I rated The Fisherman 3 out of 5 stars on the goodreads.

Have you read any of the above books ? What are your views ? Please share :)

MAMI reviews #2 Heavenly Nomadic ( Sutak)

Sutak posterAfter waiting in the queue to watch Taxi Tehran for almost 20 minutes, I gave up and went to the screening of Heavenly Nomadic in next Audi in PVR-Lower Parel.  Heavenly Nomadic or Sutak, is the movie from Kyrgyzstan, about Kirghiz nomad family based in the mountains. A family consists of the Old couple, their widowed daughter-in-law, 7 year of grand-daughter and grand-son who is studying architecture in the city.

[Bonus Read: Movie Review: Chronic ]

The movie buys its time in establishing the routine of the family, that starts from the night prayer to the moon followed morning cattle razing of horses and sheep. Set in the Mountain village, the movie enjoyed the scenic beauty of the green valley, snow kissed mountains, milk colored rivers and tented house in the middle. It reminded me  of the childhood drawing that we all drew in our art classes in school- mountain, river, rainbow, birds and a house.

heavenly nomadic

A still from the movie

As the story moves forward, a love angle is established between Saihyr (daughter-in-law) and Ermek, who works as a meteorologist there. The best character of the movie was the 7 year grand daughter who lighted the screen each time she smiled or asked one of her curious questions. There were no one really a lead in this movie as each character got enough screen time. The plot gets interesting change of pace when the grandson visits the mountains during his vacation.

Through the symbolism of local legends, the old couple tries to convey their feelings to the younger generation.  There are traditions, beliefs and insecurity toward urbanization. Even when the movie ended, the scene from the mountain stayed long with me. I rate Heavenly Nomadic or Sutak 4/5 star.

MAMI Reviews #1- Chronic

 

Mumbai film festival

Mumbai film festival

Last week, Mumbai was blessed with the 17th edition Mumbai Film Festival that opened in Cinemas all over the city. It is organized by Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI) and I can say that it was the best marketed edition ever. Compared to previous editions, this one had long queues and popular multiplexes under its radar, that was also helped in the increased awareness of the event.Barring few cancelled shows, event partner Bookmyshow.com also deserves the credit for handling the bookings and screening very professionally.

In this series, I have decided to the review the movies that I had a pleasure to watch during the festival. Though I missed the A-listers like Lobster, Taxi Tehran and Room but I did manage other interesting tittles.

Chronic

Chronic movie poster

Chronic movie poster

I should have not watched this movie first thing in the morning. Starring Tim Roth, Chronic is the story of the male nurse who takes intense care of his terminal patience. Needless to say that the movie had a sad ending.

It has a very non-Hollywood screenplay. For the mainstream movie-goers, this movie will depend extra time to adjust with the pace and atmosphere. Tim is an excellent character actor and he embraced this complicated character. There is history of personal loss that results to over-compensating with the patients but thankfully the narration does not goes into flash-back.

Another thing that works for the movie is the use of still cameras. The convenience of of using background scores was eliminated to allow the sound to be more complimenting the atmosphere.

Though there are so many elements that work for the movie but there is also the case of missed opportunity. Many things in the movie seemed inconclusive, I guess director wanted audience to make their own conclusions. The end seemed like a forced period in middle of a complicated sentence and some supporting cast were deprived of the deserving screen time.

To conclude, I can say that Chronic is a great film festival movie but it will be interesting to see the reaction of the box office about this one. Tim Roth proves his meddle again but even for its novelty, the movie had some missing ingredients. I rate Chronic by director Michel Franco 3.5/5, may be half extra for those camera works.

 

Next Movie- Heavenly Nomadic ( Sutak)

My Tuscan Holiday- An Excursion to Siena

Perfect way to start your morning. Beautiful pictures fro Siena, a renaissance city from Italy, and a great post by Ishita.

I recommend you to follow her blog if you love travel, food, wine, books and mostly Italy.

Italophilia

I visited Siena on a radiant day from Florence. Although a few hours is not enough to see this gorgeous Tuscan town, I wanted to go anyway.

DSC03358 Gothic Siena

DSC03366 Palazzo Tolomei

DSC03354 Banners of Siena

DSC03372 The Duomo from a distance

A hill town known globally for its Palio- a horse race that happens twice every year on July 2 & Aug 16, Siena also prides itself in its medieval walls and stunning square.

Siena also has a deep history. It has been Florence’s rival since the Middle Ages because of its power and several territorial and economic conflicts not to forget that it houses wondrous works of art just like Florence. Siena is a photographer’s dream with its old buildings and narrow alleys much like Florence.

DSC03390 Narrow alleys

My Tuscan excursion to Siena was mostly walking around the town which is the best to get a sense of place. I wanted to see…

View original post 371 more words

On Man Bookers Prize 2015 shortlist

Via TheManBookersprice.com- Shortlist for 2015

Via TheManBookersprice.com- Shortlist for 2015

The shortlist of 2015 The Man Bookers’ Price for the fiction category has been announced with the usual fanfare. Historically, it was only reserved for Commonwealth countries but this is second year of it including all writers writing in English. That means it is the second year for American Authors to also compete with who’s who of the English writing. This year, two American authors made it to top six, along with two British, a Jamaican and a Nigerian author.( Here is the link that has the summary of all the books that are shortlisted this year. )

Last year, I made a pledge of reading all the short-listed books but I could only do three of them. One of the reason being that the tone of the first two books that I took was too tragic and the pace was non-existent. So, I moved on to other books from my ever-increasing “To Be Read” list.

However there was novelty in each of the books. The Narrow Road to the Deep North was the first book where I read about the details of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War;Life of Others by Neel Mukherjee familiarized the struggle and hardship of the early days of Naxalite movement in India; Ali Smith took me to the art scene of the medieval period through the eyes of an artist.

[Bonus Read: Book Reviews of Last years short-listed books, from my blog:

How to be Both by Ali Smith 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan ( Last Year’s winner )

Life of Others by Neel Mukherjee  ]

This year again I will try to read maximum from the list. My first pick was ‘The Fishermen’ by Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma but it is neither released in India and nor in Kindle so I will wait for it. So maybe I will begin with Sunjeev Sahota’s ‘A year of Runaway’ followed by ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ because I have never read any books from Jamaica or rather by any Caribbean authors.

Tom McCarthy ( Satin Island) and Anne Tyler (A Spool of Blue Thread) have already won many awards in their already accomplished writing careers and I am sure their books will be great reads too. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is based in New York and offers to be a tragic tale, but I hope it does not involve 9/11.

Have you read any of the shortlisted books? Please share your experience and review. Also, i would love to hear your views on this years shortlists.

Happy Reading !

Late but due entry in Murakami’s World

 via New York Times

via New York Times

Haruki Murakami knows how to choose an attractive book tittles. At least that is true for two of his books that I have read. Norwegian Wood is inspired by The Beatles song by the same name from their famous album Rubber Soul. The sitar by George Harrison and song-writing of John Lennon makes it an unforgettable number and Murakami rides on the same feeling with this book.

In Kafka on the Shore, my second book by Murakami, he tries to flirt with the Franz Kalkaique escapist literature. What is surprising is that both books have a huge western influence in their title and though they are set in Japan, you can feel that it is written from the western point of view. This is the tag that Murakami has lived with in his home country, given by some literary critiques. Apart from these few critiques, he is generally loved around the world.

I discovered Murakami late in my life. He was already darling of readers and featured in every book discussions. Somehow, I skipped the temptation and went on reading other authors.

In July, I got hands on the Norwegian Wood through the monthly book swap that small group of us organize ( along with some writing and some critique, I will write about it someday ).  I immediately thought that it is the time to embrace his book. I discovered later that for many readers as well,Norwegian Wood was their first Murakami book. Needless to say that I enjoyed it and next month I bought ‘Kafka on the Shore’ on my kindle.

Both books have young protagonists and you can imagine them in the streets of Japan, with their good and intense looks but deep thoughts underneath. His characters and setting takes you to different world, a world where he leaves behind the judgement and understanding of the world we live in, the world that is only created for his characters.

Norwegian wood- book cover

Norwegian Wood has a very simple narration and it’s characters are very likable. As we move on, we are introduced to their complex conflicts layered with their difficult teenage years. It’s a very Young-Adult book in its core, the one you will surely enjoy without feeling the pressure of the author’s reputation. I rated Norwegian Wood 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.

My Favorite Quote from the book “What makes us the most normal, is knowing that we’re not normal.”

Kafka on the Shore- book cover

Kafka on the Shore- book cover

“Kafka on the Shore” is more complex offering. It has a mix of Young-adult with hint of fantasy and magical realism. Music, art, books and philosophy are discussed throughout the book. It features the world’s strongest 15 year old, an old man who can talk to cats, a man who dresses like Johnnie Walker and a man who dresses like Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I rated “Kafka on the Shore” 4 out of 5 stars in goodreads.

My Favorite Quote from the book “Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.”

let me know your views about Murakami and his books. If you have any other recommendations of his books , then please share and if you have not read any of his work, well, I have just recommended you two.

Whatsapp and the Business Communication

whatsapp logoMore and more businesses are now using Mobile Instant Messengers for business communication. Earlier, only handful of the projects, finance and marketing oriented professionals were exclusively using Blackberry Messengers (BBM) and subscribing to Blackberry’s enterprise solutions.

With the smartphone revolution let by Android devices has made Mobile messengers more common. Whatsapp is not only the must have app in your device, but also a part of the Facebook Inc, after the $19 Billion takeover. School students, Parents-Teachers groups, families separated by distances, people who got drunk together in TGIF- everyone is forming the Whatsapp group and obviously the businesses are not behind.

Few years back, Vodafone’s Television campaign showed how the original Blackberry boys were grumpy when everyone started using blackberry and typing ruthlessly on a QWERTY keypad was not limited to Corporate boys.

blackberry boys

Blackberry boys campaign by Vodafone India showing the change of usage from Corporate to General public

 

Blackberry-its ok boys

In this advert, the traditional blackberry boys are upset with the affordability of blackberry services

Unlike BBM, the use of Whatsapp was not driven by Corporate and Enterprise users. It’s entire model of being free and available in even Symbian O/s ( Remember symbian ?) made it popular among young users first. Students and techies were the first adopters. Also, the subsequent phones and Android/ IOS smartphones manufactures also marketed Whatsapp as the free and better replacement of BBM. This led to the eventual downturn of BBM.

According to survey by Ericsson Consumer lab, around 98% respondents in India said that they use Whatsapp, however 66% of the user indicated that they use it for entertainment purpose only.

Via, Economic TImes

Via, Economic TImes

Quality of business Communication on Whatsapp

There are many advantages of Whatsapp in businesses. The speed of communication has never been faster. However, the thing that suffered most due to its increase of use in business is, the quality of communication. Since most of the users have previously used Whatsapp for entertainment and as personal communication app only, has also migrated their personal messaging behaviors to professional world.

The next round of evolution in business communication will involve moderating chats and training employees how to professionally use Whatsapp. The pressure of responding immediately and the use of short words & emoticons when not applicable is particularly annoying.

Many managers are also seeing Mobile IMs as the replacement to the emails but I think so that it is the flawed thinking. The detailed, and quality communication can never be replaced, however, it can be complimented with faster and hands-on communication app.

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Accenture is freeing 300,000-plus employees from performance reviews

Personally, I am from school of thought that also believes that annual review of employees is the lazy attempt to keep track of in-house talent, their performance & their appraisal . There are many qualitative aspects that gets completely or marginally ignored in this system.

Quartz

Joining a group that already includes Adobe, Microsoft, and Deloitte, consulting firm Accenture will end performance reviews and rankings for its 330,000 employee starting this September, according to the Washington Post. It’s one of the largest companies by headcount to do so.

The annual performance review has long felt like an immovable fixture of the corporate world. The process and results can feel rigorous, and provide a legally helpful record when it comes to termination lawsuits. But in addition to the stress they put on both sides and their intensely bureaucratic nature, they’re rife with bias (people tend to give excessively high ratings), and ranking people can easily backfire and demotivate huge chunks of a workforce.

Management theorists argue that they’re intimidating and promote bad management. Putting so much emphasis on a once a year process tends to focus all goal setting and feedback to one point, discouraging the sorts of frequent conversations and updates…

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Almost living the dream with Tattva #Kathmandu

” You are living the dream man !” That is what I said to my friend Uday whose cafe and Bed & breakfast, Tattva- Bistro and bar,  is now open for business. A month before the earthquake that shuttered Nepal, I was in Kathmandu catching up with my family and friends. During this visit, I had the first hand experience of Tattva.

Uday, along with his childhood friend Rishavh has started it where you will find the right amount of the hipster Nepali culture, with their love for music & local craft in its full display.

The tables outside

The tables outside

You will notice an old Victorian clock mounted on the pole and the Tantrik faces hung on the rugged wall. The inside of the bar is more warm and cosy. There is screen where Uday has promised to play Manchester United game whenever they are playing (now you know why i am writing this post :P) along with portrait of Rock n Roll icons and Buddha.

Tattva means" Element" in Sanskrit

Tattva means” Element” in Sanskrit

But Tattva’s charm is that its ambiance is just warming you up for the mean feat. In our closed circles, both Uday and Rishavh is know for their music and if you are lucky, you may end up enjoying their jam sessions. And then there is food. I leave the pictures below and refrain from describing it because I really dont want saliva to drop on my laptop ( yeah, I really need that free beer next time i am there, so little extra flattery for the chef there :P)

The Food @ Tattva

The food is accompanied by great ambiance and lovely music

Did I mention the word amazing?

Did I mention the word amazing?

The rooms and facility upstairs are different story altogether. That is when you don’t want to go away from that place ever. Usually they prefer the guests who stay there for longer duration ( 2 weeks or more ), but will not mind a few for shorter stays as well (Do contact them in advance if you are planning to stay). I was impressed by the selection of furnishing around the room, that gave so much personality and personalization to the culture there.

Having done my share of stay in Bed and Breakfast in many cities, I have an understanding what may work and may not work when it comes to rooms and facilities. I can confidently say that in Tattva, Uday and Rishavh have managed a very competent and warm place that the travelers will absolutely admire and love.


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The view of the Room

The view of the Room

Tattva room- kathmandu

Handcrafted carpet and bamboo Coat stand gives adds local flavor in the room

 

 

I imagined myself sitting in this table and writing the next bestseller. Yes, i dream a lot :P

Next time when you are in Kathmandu, don’t forget to drop by to enjoy a glass of beer with amazing music, good food and Manchester United on the screen.

I always dreamed of quitting everything and start a place like this (along with a bookstore and a recording studio) where I get an opportunity of meeting and serving travelers from around the world. When I told Uday that he is living a dream, I not only meant his own dream but also the dreams of many others, well, almost !

 

On Bobby “I am Not Indian” Jindal

This post makes more sense than any article that I have read in 3 newspapers this morning

Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

[From here]

Jindal stresses how he avoided telling his parents of his new faith and how disappointed they were when they found out. He said he read the Bible by flashlight to prevent being discovered by his folks, and compared his clandestine study to the early Christians “hiding from government persecution.” Jindal’s process of finding his true religion also involved participating in an exorcism of a college girlfriend.

There is a lot of Jindal that I don’t agree with. But this I got to give the man.

It’s better to be thrown in front of lions or be crucified upside down than to have to go through the ordeal of being a second-generation Indian immigrant growing up in US in the 80s. How do I know? I was one (for a while).

Jindal

My parents were kind. They didn’t, for instance, make me dress like Anil Kapoor in “Suit boot…

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Book Review: Angela’s Ashes

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

You might have already discussed this book in your book clubs. This is one of the most talked about memoir and I may not be telling anything new in this review but I cannot not write about this amazing book.

Angela’s Ashes is written and narrated by Frank McCourt, Irish-American author, about his childhood and hardship of growing up in Ireland in poverty. When Frank’s father is unable to get an employment in Brooklyn, they move back to Angela’s native village in Limerick. Their situation worsens in Ireland. McCourt family consists of father McCourt who can’t stop drinking away all the welfare money. His brothers and the mother are other members.

The best part of the book remains the humor in the times of sorrow. In the each statement, in each paragraph you can sense the point of view of the child. Like he describes the ground of of their apartment is called Ireland because it is always flooded while the upperlevel is called Italy because it is warmer and pleasant.

[Quote: “The master says it’s a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it’s a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there’s anyone in the world who would like us to live.”]

However this book was published long after Mr McCourt had lived those days and he had been accused of exaggerating his miseries. But I believe no great piece of literature is spared from criticism. It was later adopted as major motion picture.

I rated Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt 5 out of 5 stars in goodreads. This is one memoir that can change your views on the genre itself.

 

 

Just Another Book Recommendation

I need to learn the art of writing a blog tittle. After 5-6 backspacing the perfectly fine tittles, I resigned to the tittle that is little bit too honest. Now, since I have still managed to have your attention with the perfectly average blog tittle (and what happens next will blow your mind, still learning the art !), here are some book recommendations that I have read in the recent months. Needless to say that I loved each of them and they are the only takeaways from the Not-so-good 2015 so far:

1. Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Strange pilgrims is the collection of 12 short stories, originally written in Spanish by the legendary author Gabriel Garcia. Each stories are based in Europe but the characters are immigrants from South America and Caribbean. Some of the stories in the book are very special, they capture the ceremonial space in our soul. There is a story of a former prostitute who is training her blind dog to visit her after she is buried in the pre-purchased burial space. And then there is a story of a President in exile in Geneva who makes acquaintance with a former country-men and his wife in a modest and a non-aristocratic way. I rated it 4 out 5 stars in the goodreads.

12 Short Stories by Gabriel Garcia

12 Short Stories by Gabriel Garcia

[Bonus Read: Satyajit Ray, Khushwant Singh and other keepers of Short Stories]

 

2. Chowringhee by Shankar

Another translated work in the list, Chowringhee is the story of a hotel, in the central Calcutta that is the symbol of the glory and pride for the citizens. This book works the charm that you may have experienced in the movie Grand Budapest Hotel where hotel is as big a character as it gets. The staffs, the guests, the vendors, the legends and the history makes it an interesting read. I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars in the goodreads.

Chowringhee- book cover

Chowringhee- book cover

 

3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I started this book in September 2014 and completed in February 2015. No, Cloud Atlas is not a 2500 page book but it does not mean that it is not epic.  I loved it so much that I didn’t want it to end. David Mitchell narrates the tale using different perspective, eras and motives. This a classic, sci-fi, philosophic  and one of the most re-quotable book that I have read recently. I dont know how to sell it better.

Masterpiece will be an understatement

Masterpiece will be an understatement

 

4. The End of Eternity by Issac Asimov

“When was this book written  ? ” That was my first question to the friend who lend me this book. This is an astonishing book that satisfies all the archs of sci-fi. I don’t want to reveal anything from the plot.Get your copy and enjoy the universe created by Asimov.

 

Asimov's magical creation

Asimov’s magical creation

 

5. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

When two of the greatest writers ever collaborate, you can do little but bow down to the masters of words and take joy from their amazing partnership. Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter Witch- is the book that will make you look stupid in public places because you will be found laughing loudly. Also, your opinion about footnotes will be changed forever. Grab your copy now

And you thought Fantasies can't make you laugh

And you thought Fantasies can’t make you laugh

 

The Adventures of the night bus

Poster of movie Bombay to Goa glorified a bus trip.

Poster of movie Bombay to Goa glorified a bus trip.

If you have not traveled in one of those over dressed night intra-state buses then you are definitely missing something in your life. I mean you keep boasting about your bike trip to Leh, your back packing in Europe or “soul-searching” (hehe) trips to Bangkok but I never hear anyone saying that ” I took a ride in that shady “Video Coach” between Gorakhpur to Lucknow. ”

There may be 2 possible explanation for absence of popularity of these buses. Maybe cool people don’t travel on them or maybe they don’t think that endless playlist of 90’s Kumar Sanu+ Nadeem Sravan music is not swag enough. I always have fun in these trips and meet many interesting characters except for last time, when the bus conductor didn’t play any Mithun/Govinda starer movie.

So, here are the most interesting “Night Bus” characters that I have encountered over the years :

1. Traveling Salesman:

Salesman are fun people to travel with

Salesman are fun people to travel with

If you are traveling alone and looking to make some friends, don’t look beyond a travelling sales man. They are easy to spot. They have a brief-case style backpack, rotten teeth and always ringing cellphone with Ashiqui 2 song’s ringtone. They are fun because they always travel with hidden bottle of booze and chakna, and they know all the cool places on the highway because of their constant travels.

2. Bollywood Fanboy:

Ayega Ayega gaane mein ayega ayega kitni baar aata hai ?

Ayega Ayega gaane mein ayega ayega kitni baar aata hai ?

Another small town Salman Khan replica with his signature turquoise bracelet and bell-bottom pants, he is the funniest guy in the entire ride. He will lip-sync all the songs played, he will communicate in bollywood dialogues (Franndship mein no sorry, and no thank you !), and bring out irrelevant bollywood trivia out of no where ( Do you know the name of Shah Rukh Khan’s father in Baazigar ?)

 

3. Confused Communist

Mr &Mrs Iyer

A confused communist will slowly inquire about your background, monthly income expenditure and other details that will make you extremely uncomfortable. Then slowly he will let you know that he has lot family land and farms but he still lives his life in utter modestly. His sole aim is to shame you and make you feel sorry for yourself but you may end up laughing at the dude.

4. Student of the Year wannabe

student of the year

Couple of movies by Karan Johar has sucked life of this boy and now he is dreaming of high school or college filled with cheerleading girls and synchronized signing awesomeness.  He is about to witness the bitterness of college life. Just shut up and don’t spoil his dream.

More to come in part 2 .