Book Review: Family Life

Title – Family Life
Author –Akhil Sharma
Date of publishing – February 2, 2015
Publisher –W. W.  Norton & Company
My rating – 2/5
(My rating dates – 14/10/2017 to 15/10/2017)

Family Life which is supposedly a work of fiction as claimed by the author seems more like his own autobiography as an immigrant to America. The opening of the book seemed too nice for a perfect afternoon’s reading. As I read, I began turning pages only to finish the book.

The book lacked what can be called as vigour. As the story progressed it became more and more depressing. The portrayal of characters was too superficial. The very word Family didn’t fit into the novel. Overall, if you are looking for an inspirational read, this is not for you. I don’t recommend it.

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Book Review: Ghachar Ghochar

Title – Ghachar Ghochar
Author –Vivek Shanbhag (Translated from Kannada to English by Srinath Perur)
Date of publishing – February 7, 2017
Publisher – Penguin
My rating – 5/5
(Reading dates – 12/10/2017 to 13/10/2017)

Yesterday, I made my weekly trip to the town’s library to return my previous set of books and borrow the next set. This time I decided to borrow books for light reading such as novels or short stories as I needed a break from serious reading. As my eyes went through racks, I was thrilled to see an Indian author’s book in the shelf. The title read –Ghachar Ghochar. I quickly scanned the barcode on my Goodreads app to see the rating and was happy to see that I has been received well. I began reading the book that very night but soon fell asleep.

Next day –I started all over again only to finish the entire book in one go. That is when I realized that it was a translated version of the Kannada equivalent. Nowhere does it see so. The translator has done a very honest job. Though I secretly wish I had read the book in Kannada simply because its my mother tongue.

The story has been knit around the characters so well that the reader fails to notice that there are undertones for each incident that has simply slipped through the his eyes. In simple words, it is about how the narrator (whose name is not revealed anywhere in the story) ‘s identity, life and family has changed from being poor and simple to affluent and complicated. Somewhere the author is trying to communicate the futility of relationships when money becomes the governing factor. The story has to be read and enjoyed. I am not going to dwell into the story line here.

Below, I am going to explore the climax of the story. Please do not read further if you haven’t read the book yet.

School

The story ends with the character Anita missing. When I finished the last line of the book, I was desperate to know what happened to her and browsed through all the reviews on Goodreads. None of them revealed anything satisfying. I revisited some specific paragraphs to see if the author has intertwined the climax in the story itself and I strongly feel affirmative. I will list a few of them below-

  • Hostility of the women in the family except Anita towards Suhasini, the lady who came looking for chikkappa
  • Family’s attempt to exterminate the ants
  • Anita’s displeasure about husband not having a well-defined job and her warning about going to the police
  • Narrator finding someone’s obituary note in Anita’s wardrobe
  • Chikkappa, Malati and Amma gossiping about the murders in the neighbourhood
  • Narrator’s hands having blood stains

So the story is not as simple as it is narrated. This is what I arrived at –Anita was an independent woman who had high ideals like her father who was married off to a man from an affluent business-oriented family which was once poor. Anita fought with her husband often expressing her displeasure for having married him. She expressed the same kind of displeasure with other members of the family too. She remained an outsider forever unable to get along with people around her and unable to live up to her ideals. As a husband and a man, the narrator simply felt incomplete. Family, career –reasons could be multi-fold. This collective frustration of everyone in the family led them to think of ways to get rid of her and they apparently succeed.

In my opinion, some characters such as the furious lady in the coffee shop, Chitra and Suhasini don’t exist at all. They all are Anita’s characteristics personified. Also, the last chapter where the family sits together and gossips doesn’t actually exist in the story. It is only a hint to the reader regarding how Anita might have been killed. By superimposing the stories of the neighbourhood on the narrator’s life, it becomes clear that she was either strangled to death by her husband and her corpse was cremated hurriedly or by killed a framed gas explosion or by a framed road accident. The narrator is also clearly involved. The hint lies in the last paragraph of the novel.

School

Overall, it is a brilliant novel with lot of ghachar-ghochar!

Book Review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma – A Natural History of Four Meals

Title – The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Author – Michael Pollan
Date of publishing – August 28, 2007
Publisher – Penguin
My rating – 5/5

(Reading dates – 02/10/2017 to 11/10/2017)

As I was going through the recommendations on Goodreads, I came across this book by Michael Pollan. The description of the book was quite interesting and the author was the same person who has done a documentary called Cooked which is available on NetFlix. It took me ten days of intense reading to complete it. The book circles around the evolution (read reduction) of our food system. It elaborately talks about the America’s national eating disorder. Decoding the title –Omnivore is a creature which is both herbivore and carnivore. In this book, the author has referred to human being as omnivore. Omnivore’s dilemma is the confusion one lands in when it comes to what to eat. The author beautifully dissects the food culture of America which is increasing leaning towards fast food these days.

Food has walked a long way since the European colonization of America. The book has been categorized into four broad categories –Industrial Corn, Pastoral Grass and Personal the Forest. The author has presented a beautiful amalgamation of his research on industrialization of food through tracing its roots.

In the first few chapters, the author talks about how the monoculture of corn has monopolized the food system of America. I was aghast to read that we eat nothing but just corn in different forms. From meat to milk, from bread to eggs everything has been directly or indirectly derived from corn. This is harming not just the consumers but also the soil. The author then moves on to describe the revolution of industrial organic –organic farming which has grown up as an industry by itself. Though not as bad as industrial food, it does no good to consumers and soil as the corn is just replaced by organic corn. In contrast to this, the author then speaks about the advent of farmers market where local farmers sell the produce they grow with love and care. The author also throws light upon some animal rearing farms where animals and plants live in close ecological harmony. The last few chapters are on the age-old hunter-gatherer method of procuring food where one knows the exact origin of each what is on his table.

The book is a real eye opener and it has completely changed the way I would look at food from now on. The flow of topics is also brilliant not boring the reader at all. But there is so much information is the book that it calls for a committed and serious reading. Highly recommend it!

Book Review: Godman to Tycoon – The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev

Title – Godman to tycoon: The untold story of Baba Ramdev
Author – Priyanka Pathak-Narain
Date of publish – July 31, 2017 (1st edition)
Publisher – Juggernaut publications
My rating – 4.5/5
(Reading dates – 28/09/2017 to 30/09/2017)

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One morning, as I was just finishing my breakfast, a cousin of mine texted about a book that recently got banned by the Delhi High Court. Subsequently, she sent me a link to the book on Goodreads. When I clicked on it, I realized that this was the book I had once wanted to read – Godman to Tycoon: An Untold Story of Baba Ramdev by Priyanka Pathak-Narain.

Luckily, I could order one of the last few copies from Amazon as I reside outside India. A very interesting investigative journalistic work, I should say. The author seems to be truly honest. She has to be appreciated for the such painstaking hard work she has put in in gathering information from various sources. She has tried to remain unbiased throughout the narration. Nowhere has she shadowed the facts with her opinions. There are many questions unanswered due to lack of evidence.

Since the days when I have seen Swami Ramdev, I have been mesmerized by his inspiring words and energy. He has grown from rags to riches by his unfathomable vision. The book not only gives a clear picture of his journey but also raises several questions which includes those regarding sudden disappearances of some of his acquaintances. But none of them can taint the image of Baba because of, one –lack of evidence, two –authenticity of the words of the people who came forward to talk about it.

By reading this book my opinion about him has become more profound. He is not just any yogi but also a shrewd businessman and an clever opportunist. I would not go on to judge whether he is good or bad as I do not know enough. As far as the products are concerned, I have been using some of them and I am quite happy with them though there are disagreeing views in the book. His vision is something greater than what we are seeing today. As long as it is contributing towards nation building, everything else can take a back seat.

Book Review: A Long Way Home – A Memoir

Title – A long way home: A Memoir
Author – Saroo Brierley
Date of publish – June 2, 2015
Publisher – Penguin books, Australia
My rating – 5/5
(Reading dates – 25/09/2017 to 28/09/2017)

Soon after finishing reading my previous book, Overtreated, I began looking for suggestions that popped up on my library screen. A book with a cover photo of a boy in a white T-shirt written Tasmania printed on it appeared on my screen. I clicked to see what the book was about and discovered that it was a memoir by a Saroo Brierley. As I googled, I discovered that this was the book which the movie, Lion was based upon. I loaned the kindle edition immediately and began reading.

What a narration it was! I couldn’t resist turning pages until I read the last one. I am appalled by the boy’s sheer conviction to remember things that happened during childhood until he grew up to an adult to trace his roots back. The book doesn’t bore the readers at all and is a very inspiring one. I am slightly disappointed by the way his homeland is described in comparison to the land where he currently resides. He might be completely true to his memories but could have been less harsher in describing the poverty in India as, for a layman, it gives a picture of entire country being poverty stricken which is not. I might be wrong in my analysis as I have not been in the same shoes as the author.

Larry Buttrose has done a very good job of being a ghostwriter to the author’s thoughts. Overall, it is a very good memoir.

Off to watch Lion now!

Book Review: Overtreated

Title- Overtreated: Why too much medicine is making sicker and poorer
Author- Shannon Brownlee
Date of publish- September 2, 2008
Pages- 368
My rating- 5/5

(Reading dates- 17/09/2017 to 25/09/2017)

When I came to the United States for the first time, the lifestyle seemed so different here. People are constantly worried about their health and well-being. It made me wonder- why a country which is so advanced, which has such a sophisticated medical system is still not disease-free.

It took nearly two and a half years to find my answer. Thanks to Shannon Brownlee for such a wonderful insight into the medical world. The author has to be appreciated for her painstaking research which involved meeting so many doctors, patients, administrative authorities, insurance companies and other stakeholders. Each interview is so well documented in the book that it doesn’t disturb the flow of reading at all. What I particularly liked in the book was the way she has classified the information into chapters depending on areas of specialization. The real-life examples of patients were heart-wrenching. As I finished each chapter I was compelled to complete the next one even faster. She has given a very good picture of the old pay-by-service system in comparison with today’s managed care system. The role of insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies in influencing a doctor’s decision has left me in a state of shock. In the last two chapters, she has given a very positive picture of the working of Veterans Health Administration and also suggested some changes to the current medical system.

The book has completely changed the way I would look at healthcare henceforth. If one is serious about long healthy life there is no way but adapt a healthy lifestyle and keep doctors and hospitals at bay as far as possible!

P.S. Thanks to the town library and Overdrive libraries for making it possible for me to borrow a kindle version of this book.

Read Me

“Books are uniquely portable magic.”

–Stephen King

Being in the 21st century, rightly called as the information age, which has entitled man to all that information he needs, through a palm-size monster called as smartphone, does it really matter to rethink on whether we should hold on to the age old habit of reading? A fairly large number of people feel- No. The reason being simple- Selective information access. Electronic media enables us to get what we want rather than get all that is available, unlike books.

It would be a fool’s argument if I am hell bent on asserting that books score over electronic knowledge base. That is definitely not the message I intend to convey. Putting the problem in a nutshell, we, the frontrunners of digital revolution essentially lack the ability to assimilate information into knowledge by sensible application of mind. To be precise, we have a broad idea of everything but deep knowledge of nothing.

The reason is not far-fetched. It is right in front of our eyes. We have been, by and large, paralyzed by excessive and injudicious use of technology. Let me give a few instances-

16% of 5600? –Where’s the calculator?

Dial a friend? –Search the phonebook.

Give a lecture? –Oh wait, let me open my textbook!

Solve this problem? –Sorry, I don’t remember the formula.

If we observe these four lines carefully, the hitch is clearly evident i.e. the memory element in the brain is losing its effectiveness due to lack of usage. At a grosser level, it may not be an issue. But at a subtler level, it is an undesirable brain impairment. The ability to derive knowledge from a life of sheer discipline, consistent study, reflective thought and contemplation is slowly depleting in the younger generation. With such trends continuing, generations to come will be rendered as a herd of mere human robots.

So, the need of the hour is to nurture the thirst for knowledge in young minds by encouraging them to read good, thought provoking books. Reading should be backed up by consistent effort to reflect upon what is being read and to reason logically, in order to discriminate between what is right and what is wrong. Use technology with awareness. This is sure to enhance a person’s problem-solving ability, his outlook towards the society, his character and his personality as a whole.

As an ending note, I would like to say, enjoy the pleasure of reading. If you are not a book-worm, become one. Ignite the reading hobby in you. Spread yourselves across various areas and choose that which interests you- science, literature, arts, economics, history, philosophy, spirituality etc. Instead of whiling away our time in wasteful activities let us pick a book and share the joy of knowledge.

The next time you see a book, don’t be surprised if it calls out, “Hey, read me!”