“But this is not my tiffin…”

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“But this is not my tiffin…” I often hear these words around dinnertime. You must wonder if I order my dinner from the dabbawalas. Well, I am not so unfortunate. On the contrary, I am blessed to have delicious home-cooked food everyday.

The novelty I enjoy is that in one single week, I eat dinner in four different homes. Surprised, are you? If know about my family, I don’t think you would be taken aback but if you have not heard my dinner tales, then here I go…

I reside in a cosmopolitan city of India with my mother and daughter. And I am blessed to have my mamajis (uncles) reside on the other two floors of this building. It is the biggest boon one can have in a city where more than a million people reside and yet everybody is lonely. My nanaji (grandfather) was from a small town. He was a firm believer in the ancient system of joint family and thus kept the family together with his unconditional love, devotion and constant support. Later, my mamaji took a vow to continue this tradition here, in this city, though with a few alterations to suit everyone’s needs.

Ma shifted to this city after my father’s demise. It began with a simple ritual of only four members from two households having dinner together. My mamaji ensured they had dinner with Ma so that she didn’t feel lonely and also, to exchange notes about the day’s happenings. If they had not initiated this ritual, they would probably have not met each other for days at a stretch inspite of staying in the same building. Isn’t that what happens with everyone in the metropolitan cities?

And it happened with us too. After I was diagnosed with COVID, a few other members too tested positive, one after the other. We decided to stop the common dinner in the best interest of everyone. Hum bhi iss sahar ki bheed mein bhi akele ho gaye the!! Yes, without the dinner ritual, we started feeling lonely too. And that’s when I realised the true importance of this daily custom. I missed my hour of good cheer and the emotional support system.

The dinnertime ritual had started with four members but over the years, others shifted here, me and Aamya, being two of them. We slowly grew in numbers. My mosi (aunt) and my cousin took a conscious decision to reside in the same colony so that they could benefit from this setup. We did question if we could accommodate more members and my mamaji’s stance was always positive. It is his unwavering faith in the ideology that has brought us so far. From four members of two families, we have grown to 13 members across four families and with Zoie as the latest member, the count has gone to 14! All the 14 members have different taste buds. So, the food might not be necessarily to the liking of every member across three generations but we dine together happily. Zoie is the only member who splurges on anything and everything she gets to eat. All the food is to her liking!! And she is loved by every member of the family.

Everyday, we come out of our comfort zones to go to one-of-the-four-houses to have dinner. The work timings are different and some of us do get late. We’ve had cousins/relatives/family friends staying over for few days/months. Though it’s not been easy but it was not impossible to work-out this setup. The best way is to keep it simple. It is neither a pot-luck dinner nor an elaborate meal. And that’s what has kept it workable. The one who hosts the dinner does all the cooking except when we have additional people staying over.

This precious time is not only about having dinner together. It is also about strengthening our bonds and nurturing them. Undeniably, it is about respecting our differences and learning to adjust with the others. It also means that we have ensured that none of us feel lonely in the chaos of this city. I give the credit to my mamaji to start this practice but at the same time I also give equal credit to the ladies of these four homes who have sustained it day after day. Here, a special mention of ma and my mamiji(aunt). Both of them have gone an extra mile to make it work.

Over the years, each one of us has made a conscious effort to meet at 8 pm to have dinner…together. Whenever one of the member falters and persistently gets late, mamaji reiterates the reason for having this dinnertime ritual, “Yeh dinner hum ek saath kyon karte hai? Sirf kahana nahi khaana hota hai. Ek saath samay bhi bitana hota hai”. I totally agree that this ritual is not merely to have dinner. The idea is to have dinner together and spend quality time with one another.

Check, check…I guess, I got carried away with the saga of the dinnertime ritual and forgot all about the ‘tiffins’!! As a reader, you too must have got engrossed to know more about the dinner ritual or were you would still wondering about the tiffins? I personally believe that you were with me. You were inquisitive about the ‘dinnertime ritual’…you wanted to know more about it, isn’t it? Well, there is so much more to share about this unique-workable-heartwarming idea but before we go further let’s give some importance to the title of my blog and figure out the story of the ‘tiffins’…!!

Even though we know the importance of having dinner together and make a conscious effort to be there at 8 pm, lest we get reprimanded but sometimes the work schedules, ill health or sheer laziness doesn’t let us follow the regime. In such a case the tiffin boxes are packed and carried for the said individual(s). Generally, it takes days to return the tiffins/containers to the rightful owner.

And when these boxes are brought back during dinnertime, the ladies try to identify their own and we often hear words like, “you have my orange box…”, “na, na, not this round tiffin, I had given the square one”, “woh ek plastic wala tha na…?“, “but this is not my tiffin…”!! It’s a hilarious scene for the onlooker but a matter of serious concern for the owner. The containers generally reach their rightful owners. If not then the ladies have to let go off their boxes! Yes, ‘let go’ – this is yet another mantra we have imbibed through our dinnertime ritual.

Hmm…now you know all about the tiffins and also the dinnertime ritual! Though the actual ritual takes just about an hour and a half but it nurtures us 24 x 7!! It is much more potent than a prayer! It is a blessing in disguise…and a celebration of life!!

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अरे वाह! मुझे जीना आ गया

एक नया दोस्त बनाया आज।
उसने कुछ अपने बारे में बताया, 
मैंने कुछ अपने बारे में सुनाया।
दोस्त ने पूछा, "ज़िंदगी क्या है?”
मन ने सहज जवाब दिया, “आज…!”
दिल ने कहा, “अरे वाह, तुझे तो जीना है आ गया…!!”

My map, my pride! Let’s get it right!!

Recently I came across an advertisement to promote tourism in our country. It showcased beautiful tourist destinations of India. The person who forwarded the ad claimed it to be ‘lovely and eye catching’! And I on the other hand, was disappointed to say the least. Infact, I wanted to lodge a complaint against the organisation who made the creative and also against the individual forwarding the same.

Why this fuss? Because the first screen depicted the Indian map incorrectly. Rather the map was incomplete. The disputed lands of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh had not been showcased in the map. I wonder why do we allow this folly. Are we so ignorant that we do not know the real boundaries of our own motherland?!!

The soldiers brave the harsh conditions to protect our borders day and night, so that we can enjoy a carefree life. They do not battle an eyelid before they lay down lives for their motherland. They do not allow the enemy to take away even an in inch of their country. They would rather die than allow an enemy to step onto Indian land.  And how do we honour their sacrifices? By making a mockery of these sacrifices, by reducing the boundaries of our country on digital platforms and taking pride in forwarding these photos/maps/creatives.

Incorrect depiction of the map of India is a grave crime. It can have some serious implications. If you do not believe my words or you are not convinced, please read this news item Times of India dated 5 May 2016 The government of India doesn’t take it lightly and neither should you because it can land an individual in jail. While writing this blog, I researched a little more and came across another news item which was published today. The IT Minister had pulled up WhatsApp for depicting a wrong map of India. WhatsApp responded promptly by removing the incorrect map as stated in this news article – Indian Express dated 25 January 2023. Further, the government of India had also taken up a case with WHO in the same regard as stated here Hindustan Times dated 1 Feb 2022.

My father, a soldier, laid down his life for the country so I am extremely sensitive in this regard. But now that I have vented my anger, I am feeling calmer and would like to put across my point in a different way. Why do you think the government takes this issue so seriously? Because the map depicts our motherland. We can’t allow anyone to chop off the limbs of our beloved mother. The soldiers protect the boundaries and keep the enemy at bay and it is our duty to ensure that we do not propagate or forward any incorrect information. Please understand the impact it can have on young minds. They say that if a wrong is told a thousand times it eventually becomes right. So, if this irresponsible behaviour goes on, sooner or later our children will start accepting these as the legitimate boundaries of our country. We cannot allow this to happen!!

The incorrect depiction of map could be the handiwork of our enemy countries. These maps are mostly depicted on non-Indian sites. They might be trying to influence our minds and like I said, “turn a wrong…into…right!” Please do not let them take advantage of our vulnerability, our ignorance, our stupidity.

If you have been ignorant, then don’t be! Educate yourself if you take pride in being an Indian. There is ample information on the official websites of government of India regarding our country’s map and also about the national symbols of India. Learn about them. Respect them and manifest the values they stand for. Get the information right and be cautious before you forward anything in this regard. Before you click the forward button – pause – refer to the authentic information.

I am posting few ‘incorrect maps’ for your reference.

What can you do if you come across incorrect map in future? First and foremost, do not forward it. Second, communicate the consequences of sharing the incorrect map of India. Make them delete the visuals. You can share this blog to apprise them. Incase the visual is directly shared by an individual or organisation, ask them to remove the same asap. I am sure they will be reluctant to do so, persuade them and if nothing happens, lodge a complaint with 100 or write to the Ministry of Defence stating the matter. Last year, around this time, I had come across a video made by a school with incorrect map of our country. I asked the school authorities to change the map and believe it or not, they were not ready to do so. Neither did they deny nor did they change it. Instead they kept giving excuses. Finally, when I warned them that I would file a complaint with the PM Office or Ministry of Defence, did they take down the said video. So, it is not going to be easy but if we are vigilant, we can curb this menace.

And before I sign off here are the ‘correct’, ‘legitimate’ maps of India. You can also refer to Maps of India for the correct and updated maps. Be vigilant, be responsible citizens of our dear motherland. Jai Hind!!

Making the Connect!

We do not destroy something we connect with!! Isn’t it?

So I am trying to connect as many individuals to Nature, forests, green spaces, trees and animals, as possible! Together, we will mend our ways and ensure that we save them.

The children are most impressionable at their age. Just the right time to kindle in them the love for forests. I took them to the jungle in an endeavour to connect them with Nature and feel the oneness.

We collected feathers, listened to the chirping of the birds, trekked and climbed a tree. The smileys they made were to express how they felt!

After the trek, the kids were elated and far more confident than earlier. They were happy to venture on the difficult terrain. They were as happy as ‘me’!

Meri pyaari Acchu mosi!

While I was going thru the most rough patches of my life, I sought answers to the most difficult question…”Why me?” It took me years of seeking and finally I found not one, but two answers.

  • Life is not just ~~ Buddhism tenet 
  • Few things in life do not have answers, they have to be accepted as facts!

And I think these two tenets best answer the early onset of ‘dementia’ of Archana mosi (aka Acchu mosi). She is all but 63 years and her condition has deteriorated at a very fast pace in the last two years.

Mosaji and mosi (my maternal uncle and aunt), have frequented our house since the time they shifted in the close vicinity. Mosaji’s good cheer and mosi’s heartwarming presence always made our day. During the days of COVID, the visits diminished. We could not meet for weeks together. And on one of the visits I noticed something – it was neither normal nor could it be termed abnormal. But there was something amiss; something noticeably amiss…only to an observant eye. 

After a few more weeks, there was further change in her behaviour and it was evident that she did not register details. She would talk out of context. Fear gripped her for no apparent reason. Eventually, the conversations about change in mosi’s behaviour started in hush-hush tones. Everyone was sure and none knew how to broach the topic with mosaji or with her children. The elders, I guess, took the lead or one of her siblings mustered the courage to speak to the family. Why am I writing about this? This point is irrelevant. Who broached the topic, how they broached the topic is all irrelevant NOW and it was irrelevant then! What was important was that we acknowledge the fact that mosi wasn’t behaving normally so that corrective action could be taken.

Mosaji in the meanwhile, was experiencing frequent refusals to do daily chores and never seen before, rebellious nature of mosi. He remained annoyed because he was unable to identify the slow but sly progress of dementia. When finally, someone spoke to him about seeking medical help, he was reluctant! Why? because ‘acts of defiance’ do not require medical intervention. Had I been in his place, I too would have shrugged it off because acknowledging the wayward behaviour as medical condition meant tumultuous times ahead… 

The children, too noticed undesirable changes in their mother’s demeanour but they were not sure. Like us, they too were scared to admit to themselves that something did not seem right.

And what about Acchu mosi herself? How did she feel about the changes in her personality? Well, I guess, none of us know. While we started noticing the changes, each one of us tried to correct her or gave her gyan…unfortunately no one listened to her! We didn’t ask her how she felt and sadly now she is not left with the vocabulary to express her feelings. To add to it, her nerve connections have gone faulty and she can’t speak coherently. She forgets easily so maybe she doesn’t even remember how she felt… How I wish at least one of us would have listened to her instead of correcting her…how I wish…!!

Slowly mosi became quiet because she had been corrected way too many times. All our efforts to ask her to talk once again, went in vain. Her confidence level had started dwindling. And last but not the least, the doctor had proclaimed right in front of her that she had dementia. In our own ignorance, we repeatedly discussed the ailment ‘dementia’ in her presence. She took it to heart and her mind registered it! So much so that when anyone asked her about her health, she would speak this sentence stressing on each word, “mujhe dementia hai!” (I have dementia). If you think she had accepted her fate easily then you are mistaken; she tried to fight it but the ‘dementia monster’ was too powerful and sinister. And the people around, out of their own inexperience, were unable to help fight it.

Archana mosi has dementia and Jawahar mosaji is the one ‘dealing with dementia’. It hasn’t been easy for him. Infact it has been equally unnerving for him. He got advices from all quarters. He sought many doctors but none gave a clear answer. Mosi was put on Allopathic medication, as a result she became lethargic and sluggish.

I have immense faith in alternative therapies and I coaxed mosaji to accompany me to these therapists. There have been occasions when I have had heated arguments with him; I felt he had to be more discreet while talking about the problem in mosi’s presence, etc., etc. BUT now I adore mosaji for the way he is taking care of mosi and himself. He has left no stone unturned to find the cure to this disease. We have accepted and he too has accepted the fate – this disease is incurable! The only option is to take good care of mosi and keep her engaged.

He has altered his lifestyle to take care of her. And the best way to do it was to take care of his own health and mental sanity. I admire him for carrying on with his daily regime to attend yoga sessions and laughter therapy. Later during the day, he tries to keep her engaged and takes her for therapy. Since the onset of dementia, he has taken mosi for his tours – something he is passionate about!

I too have accepted that this disease is incurable but still I seek answers for these questions:

  • why Archana mosi?
  • Why at such an early age?
  • What could have been done to stop the onset of dementia?
  • Can anyone have dementia or there are factors that cause this disease?

In these two years, we have searched and researched and none of the above questions have been answered adequately. So, I had to turn to the two statements stated in the beginning…

  • Life is not just
  • Few things in life do not have answers, they have to be accepted as facts!

There is another fact we need to take with a pinch of salt – Archana mosi might not remember us after sometime! So, if you know her, try and spend time with her ‘now’ when she can recognise you. Make her smile and repeatedly tell her that you love her.  It is very important for her self esteem. Do all that you can do to boost her confidence! She has become like a child – innocent and restless…awaken the child in you and engage in activities that she now enjoys. She might not speak coherently but she understands the vibes…so reach out and fill her heart with your positive vibes! Give her a hug, hold her hand while you sit next to her because a touch is much more potent than the words. She might not adhere to societal norms but she’ll adhere to every word spoken to express your love for her! It’s time to treasure every moment with her…

In Xanadu – A quest by William Dalrymple

Pages – 300

There’s something fascinating about the writing style of William Dalrymple and that’s what attracted me to this book. I had never heard about Xanadu, I didn’t have the faintest clue where it existed and needless to say I didn’t know why he wanted to write a book about this place!

Sir Alec Guinness has the opinion, “Delightful and funny”. Just two words and it perfectly sums up a book of 300 pages, about a Quest taken to traverse on the path of Marco Polo as described in his book ‘The Travels’.

This quest was undertaken while the author was graduating from Cambridge University as a history student. It needs guts and some insanity to embark. on a journey from Jerusalem to Xanadu taking him through Turkey, Syria, Iran Pakistan and China. All that he has a backpack and the company of a lady, as he covers a distance of 12000 miles while living in caravansarais or in small stinking rooms. There were days when they had to go without food and they travelled not only on local buses but also hitch-hiked in trucks wherever possible.

As they travelled into China, they had the fear of being deported because following the Silk Route, they ventured into forbidden paths.

Though this travelogue is heavy with the references of historical events and people, there is never a dull moment. I did not take the trouble to soak in the details of the kings who ruled these places or the historical events that made them famous but I did enjoy the anecdotes and the description of the life and people. I am still not able to come to terms with the fact that the author undertook this journey just to follow the path of Marco Polo! The Mongols resonated my feelings… When William Dalrymple and his friend, on the verge of being deported back to Peking are finally able to see the remains of Xanadu, the Mongol Security officer stood shaking his head as he grunted: “Bonkers, English people, very very bonkers.”

If it weren’t for the author’s insanity, we would have been devoid of a beautiful travelogue about 12000 miles of varied landscapes, interaction with countless races, historical musings of numerous kings and travellers, and tales of the two eccentric historians!!

Amazing read!!

Leaving you with two passages from the travelogue:

"We heaved Laura up on our shoulders and precipitated her forwards into the train. She fought her way in, flaying like a Saracen. Once she had established a bridgehead, we followed. A coolie passed up our rucksacks, and we manoeuvred ourselves over legs, shoulders, tiffin cans, sacks, tables and benches, until we found ourselves above the central passage. Then we burrowed down. Within a few minutes we had reached the floor, and seconds later had excavated enough space to place our rucksacks down on it, and ourselves on them. We looked at each other and beamed with satisfaction at our achievement."

"The caravanserai was filthy, cold and had no food, but neither, thankfully, did it have any Public Security guards. We slept like children, but only until five o'clock. To keep ahead of the police we knew we had to be off before dawn. We also thought it wiser to change our transport. If the Keriya police had telegraphed forward to Charchan, the Public Security there would be expecting us on the bus. We guessed that we stood more chance of getting through travelling by truck. So, feeling ill and exhausted, we tramped around the different caravanserai dormitories looking for a driver who was leaving immediately, heading in the right direction and prepared to take us with him. Only one filled all these criteria: as at Khotan, we set off into the desert on top of a pile of coal. To mark the occasion we wore for the first time the 'disguises' we had bought in Keriya. Mine consisted of a Mao suit topped by a green Uigur skullcap; Louisa wore a printed dress and a white veil. From front-on, in broad daylight, neither disguise fooled anyone. Indeed on several occasions they caused hysterical peals of laughter from Uigurs who otherwise might never have noticed us. Nevertheless we thought that the 'disguises' did look vaguely convincing from the back. If ever we came to a checkpoint, we planned to fall forward on our faces and pretend to be asleep. Only the most officious guard would be rude enough to wake a sleeping couple, or so, at any rate, we hoped."

Banaras by Diana L. Eck

Pages 344

Banaras has always intrigued me so, when I came across this book in a book club, I ordered it. And this book did not disappoint me. Even though it has been written by a westerner, it provides in depth knowledge about the place, its culture and its history. It is a well-researched book which throws light on the Sanskrit scriptures relating to Varanasi, geographical texts, information from Brahmins and the city life.

Unfortunately, Indians have never been in a habit of documenting neither their places nor their travels. To know more about our country, religion and traditions from the historical aspect, we tend to rely on accounts of foreigners who visited India, were mesmerised by its beauty, allure and diversity.

In this book, it is evident from the opening lines to her preface that the author is in love with this place:

“I first knew Banaras 15 years ago when I studied for a year at Banaras Hindu University. It was an awesome city – captivating, challenging and endlessly fascinating. Benaras raised some of the questions about the Hindu tradition which have interested me ever since – it’s complex mythological imagination, its prodigious display of divine images, its elaborate ritual traditions and its understanding of the relation of life and death.”

The book begins with a detailed map of Banaras, which I referred time and again while reading the text. Diana, the author gives vivid descriptions of the life in the holy city, which has attracted millions of pilgrims and seekers from all over India for over 2500 years. The author is fascinated by the early morning activity in the city – the students practising yogic exercises, Brahmins performing puja in the numerous temples and shrines, students in ashrams preparing for the day and most importantly bahkts taking a holy dip in the Ganga.

She documents about the art and culture prevalent in this city during the different time periods and under reign of different rulers. Shiva is known to be the Lord of Kashi and thus a complete chapter is dedicated to Shiva who made Kashi his home. Shiva temples number in thousands here. Shaiva renouncers and ascetics throng the monasteries of the city. The author also writes in detail about the other Gods who visited Kashi or made it their home and are worshipped in this city of lights. She gives references from the scriptures to elucidate her point.

This city is different from all others because dying here, one gains liberation from the earthly round of samsara. 

The book has been elegantly written, in a fluid manner giving an account of the rituals, myths and literature associated with the city. Though the topic is heavy but the writing style keeps the reader engaged and fascinated.

A must read!!

Action – The Teachings of J. Krishnamurti

Publisher – Hay House, Pages – 139

“For me, there is no action if it is preceded by an idea.”

J Krishnamurti

It took me about ten months to read this book from end to end. This book contains the teachings of ‘J’, as he was fondly known, related to Action. The passages have been taken directly from his talks and books from 1933 to 1967. Some of the questions this book deals with are:

  • What are the consequences of personal action based on a belief?
  • Why is there a conflict in the action taken?
  • Why do I react to most things in life?

Through this book, I understood that action is not the step taken from my past learning or in anticipation of the future; action means to immerse oneself in the moment and experience the feeling. If our action is imitative, conforming to the norms, following the pattern of pleasure, then it leads to agony.

Accordingly to J, life needs to be lived in totality! Every experience has to be lived with attention and vigour. When we divide existence into different segments then action becomes contradictory.

“Right action comes in understanding relationship, which reveals the process of oneself. Self knowledge is the beginning of wisdom: it is a field of affection, warmth and love, therefore I feel rich with flowers.”
“The mind that gives root to a problem seizes to act, because action is always in the living present, and the act is present. When the problem becomes something to be solved eventually, then the idea becomes important, not the action.”

My reason for picking up this ‘thin’ book was that reading a book by J takes a lot of effort to read and comprehend. One needs to go on a different plane to be able to relate to his discourses and his thought process. Since this book had snippets from various talks, I was sure to read it at a faster pace. Needless to say, I was mistaken.

I can’t just read past his teachings. When I begin reading, they are not palatable. They make me uncomfortable. They make me question my own beliefs, my knowledge, my conditioning through the years. As I keep reading, I tend to shed this layer of conditioning and I am able to relate to J – his world, the way he sees the world (for me he remains omnipresent)! It is unnerving to embark on a journey with him because then I begin to loose sight of the normal people, their thoughts, their dogmas, their concepts. They become distant. And I begin to realise that I don’t belong to them. And here’s a passage from this book that perfectly describes my feelings:

“After all, to find out anything you must have energy, and you need a great deal of energy to inquire into something totally new. And to have that energy, you must have listened to the old pattern of life, neither condemning nor approving. You must have listened to it totally--which means you have understood it, you have understood the futility of living that way. When you have listened to the futility of it, you are already out of it. Then you have - not intellectually but deeply - felt the uselessness of living that way and have listened to it completely, totally; then you have the energy to inquire. If you have not the energy, you cannot inquire. That is, when you deny that which has brought about this misery, this conflict--which we have gone into - that denial, that very negation of it is positive action.”

Now, that I have read the book, immersed myself once more in the concepts, resolved the mental conflicts and lived by positive action in the recent past; it seems impossible to turn back……

Ram Ram India by Alex Thomson

Ram Ram India…the words are so delectable; delightful indeed! This was one main reason to choose the book. And the other reason is that I have embarked on a journey to know more about my country. Sadly, we Indians, rarely document about our experiences, our journeys or our findings. So, we have to turn foreign writers who spend time to know about India and later write about it.

Ram Ram India documents the bicycle tour of Alex Thomson and Nick Rossitier, two BBC correspondents; the journey is undertaken to raise money for Oxfam. They started their journey soon after Indira Gandhi was assassinated and riots had gripped Delhi and Punjab. The British Embassy tried to dissuade them but they were relentless. And that’s the kind of spirit required to take on a bicycle journey from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in the inhospitable climate across the vast land of India.

The two Brits travelled light and stayed mostly in ‘dak bungalows’. Alex writes about their varied experiences with the chowkidars of these places. Most of them denied accommodation. He writes about large switch boards, huge bathrooms and the presence of cockroaches there. It took me back to my days living a carefree life as a fauji brat. We lived in the Mess at different stations and devoured the food that tasted almost the same everywhere. The descriptions of their journey through the countryside brought back memories of my own; we mostly lived in Cantts, far away from the city life. I was hooked, I wanted to know more about their experiences and yet I didn’t want the book to end.

Both the Brits get undue attention because of their skin colour and sometimes they became irritated with the frankness of Indians. There were Indians who wanted to leech them of their money and on the other hand many locales helped them in the true spirit of “Atithi Devo Bhava”!

There are times when they have portrayed India and Indians in a poor light and I felt disgusted but to be honest, they have portrayed the true picture of India. The places are dirty, dusty. The officials are difficult and corrupt. This is how we are! And they give the credit where it is due…

“Meanwhile, Charand’s mechanic has fixed the wheel and we put it back on. I’m certain he’s never seen a wheel like mine before, let alone a ten-speed bicycle, but it hardly matters and the wheel is true once again. It seems to me that this facility of getting something fixed, made or patched up is the essence of Indian streets, lined with tiny workshops often not much bigger than an allotment hut. How often do you see anything actually being repaired or made in England? And again it’s very unusual here to get the ‘oh, we don’t do that here’, or the ‘That will take two weeks’, which is a way of life at home.”

The book is exorbitantly priced at Rs. 1000. Don’t be too impressed with my review and order the book on a whim. The book is worth a read so, try to grab a secondhand copy instead or borrow it from a library.

Wabi Sabi: The Wisdom of Imperfection by Nobuo Suzuki

The perfectionist that’s ‘me’, now seeks solace in Wabi Sabi – the wisdom of imperfection. Oh yes, I am tired of being a perfectionist. I love craft work, stitching and (nowdays) writing. Unfortunately most of my projects do not see the light of the day because I am scared of making mistakes…I am self-demanding and self unforgiving when I do start the project but it isn’t ‘PERFECT’.

So, when the book was reviewed in one of the reading clubs, I instantly added it to my ‘To Be Read’ list! I have fallen in love with this philosophy which has three principles:

  • Nothing is perfect
  • Nothing is finished
  • Nothing lasts forever.

All the three principles are explained with examples from real life. But my fascination was for the first tenet. The book celebrates imperfection. The author goes to the extent of saying that perfection and beauty are western concepts which create stress in our life. Who can better understand this than me? I am well acquianted with the other two tenets because they are inspired from Buddhism and Zen.

The author writes about Wabi Sabi as a way of life, in art and the philosophy. He motivates the reader to live by its principles to simplfy life, be present in the moment and living in tune with Nature. He advocates life of ‘minnimalism’; something I could relate to because I have already started traversing on this path.

The tables to enlist ‘Antithesis of wabi sabi philosophy’ and ‘Wabi Sabi philiosophy’ help to get a clear comparison of the two concepts. On one side is the life we are living and on the other side is the life we aspire to live. But change in life doesn’t come so easily. It has to be studied in depth and this is where the book lacks. The author quotes excellent examples but to ask people to set out on this path would require a little more…motivation!

As for me, this book has set me off on a new journey. I will read more about it, take some notes and more than that I would put the philosophy into practice so that I can celebrate imperfection.

“Be the best imperfect person you can be!”

Wabi Sabi philosophy

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

I picked up this book for two reasons: firstly, the previous book by Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow, had left me awestruck with his exclusive writing style and storyline, it became an instant favourite. Secondly, this book too was highly recommended in the book clubs. I am happy I read this heart warming book.

The novel picks the pace from the very beginning. The 576 pages whizz past in no time at all. It is the story of two brothers who set out for California; each for their own reason. The younger one – Billy, wants to look for his mother who abandoned him when he was just 6 months. She sends them postcards on her way to begin a new life with her boyfriend but after that there is ‘silence’!

The other brother Emmett, an 18 year old, who just stepped out of the juvenile work farm, wants to go to California because he doesn’t want to break his brother’s heart and he is sure to find work and start a new life. After all what other option do the brothers have. Their mother is long gone, their father recently deceased, and their farm in Nebraska foreclosed by the bank.

Even before they begin their journey to California, the story takes a different turn. Emmett discovers that his two friends from the juvenile farm had sneaked into their house. The friends insist they accompany the brothers but just few hours into the journey, his friend Duchess runs away with Emmett’s car and they are left stranded. At every step the brothers face challenges and their life is in peril.

While reading the book, on numerous occasions I put away the book because I was scared…scared for the boys. Whenever they came face to face with danger, I kept the book away lest I have to read through to know about the evil befallen upon them. I know it is hilarious; putting away the book wouldn’t change the story! But I did not have the heart to read on…and within minutes the curiosity would get the better of me and I would pick up the novel…again!! But the beauty of Amor Towles is that he sees the brighter side of life. So any amount of challenges faced by Billy and Emmett did not leave them bitter nor could adversity touch them.

Though the story is gripping and kept me hooked but it wasn’t as magical or exclusive as ‘The Gentleman in Moscow’! So, I a little disappointed too!