Snakes & Ladders – A journey back home

I had first picked up this book because I felt I had not given a lot of attention to Indian writers but Gita Mehta’s writing style was pleasantly penned. Snakes & Ladders is a collection of essays based on a time period when India had just gained its independence but was still ironically fighting to be free. It was written about a time when India struggled to gain a foot hold and establish itself in the form of its culture, films and folklore we identify it with today for. Never did I once imagine India to be struggling after the British Raj had been defeated; I was naïve to think it must have been a suave ride after the Independence movement and the Indo-Pakistan war of 1947 when the first Prime minister was elected and India was along its merry way to a democratic nation.
The author of this book was born in a time when India was under the British Rule and she lived through the period to see it sweat blood and to the final 1947 glory She highlights her experiences post-independence about the way she felt during the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the Sikh riots; aggressive in her tone she doesn’t shy away from expressing her opinions about the rampant political corruptions of that time involving Rajiv Gandhi and the role he played in the Sikh’s massacre in 1984. Her detailed personal experiences when narrated about reading Archie comics in Kolkata’s libraries as a little girl and discussing the building of shopping malls highlights the pride she takes in her country even as a child. Her personal encounters with various film makers and poets in that time and the discussion of ancient India paints a beautiful picture of a contemporary India that is heartfelt even today.
Born in a family of freedom fighters, the author’s father was an Indian independence activist and the Chief minister of Orissa while her brother is the present Chief Minister of Odhisa (formerly Orissa). Gita Mehta describes India as a land of numerous cultures, races, religions and languages and while Indians come across as exotic to the world it might come as surprise to know that many Indians look at their fellow mates across the states as exotic too. North Indians would find it exciting to visit the land of Kerala and vice versa (I hope).
If like me you’ve always wondered about a journey back home to a time you never knew what your country went through then Snakes and Ladders provides a useful insight into the personal political views of the author with a hint of some socio historic spice which is bound to spark your hidden curiosity for the multihued mosaic that is our India.

The Destiny of Books

A thought dawned on me when I was reading the River Sutra by Gita Mehta; I hadn’t been so engrossed in a book in a while. Sitting for an uninterrupted hour with this book made me realize how unnatural it had felt not to reach out to my iPhone to check my messages or go online to update my Facebook status or to Instagram a picture of the book I was reading or to tweet to let my followers know how much I was loving reading the River Sutra. I had forgotten to do all of the above things and it felt really strange.

But truth be told, this feeling wasn’t always new. I recall in the past reading umpteen books totally lost in the world created by the author. The mind of an experienced book reader is a calm one and not eternally buzzing but over the past couple of years my mind had transitioned from tranquility to uncontrollable hustle. I had started to wonder why this was happening to me until I came across this book called “What the internet is doing to our brains” by Nicholas Carr. The book was a take on the effect of technology on our mind; research has shown that when the mind reads one book at a time its cognitive sense is further developed to strengthen concentration and focus but the age of digital reading and the many distractions offered by clicking on hyperlinks or advertisements makes our brain mere consumers of mindless data.

The chapter titled The Jugglers Brain in particular held the answer to my question. There was this one sentence in that chapter “Every time we shift our attention, our brain has to reorient itself, further taxing our mental resources.” It was no wonder why I was taking so long to complete reading a single book, every time I would look away from the book I was sucked into, to go online and then return back to it, I had to redo the entire process of re-registering where I had left off, sometimes even having to previously read pages I could faintly recall having read before. My reading had started to suffer and as per Nicholas I had the Internet to blame.
The book talks about how the internet has rewired our brains into losing certain skills that we were once masters of – one of which involved deep reading; unfortunately speed reading and not deep reading is the term to be used in the new generation of digitalized reading. While I am not sure how the internet has affected my brain in other ways, I am pretty sure I can proclaim myself to be an avid speed reader. There isn’t a single online article that I cannot finish reading within 30 seconds and that is something not to be proud of, because when you ask me (five minutes later) what I had read I could probably barely recall two key terms. The scary truth was Internet had consumed me and millions of others around me; we want to do everything online, including reading books! Electronic reading in the form of Kindles, Ipads and other reading apps will eventually take over and why not? Who am I to campaign against saving millions of trees when the swipe of a finger can deliver all 354 pages of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi into my eager hands?
Mark Federman, an education researcher at the University of Toronto argued that ‘literacy is now nothing but a quaint notion, an aesthetic form that is irrelevant to the real questions and issues of pedagogy today as is recited poetry- clearly not devoid of value but equally no longer the structuring force of society’.

While reading the River Sutra, I came across pencil notes of meanings against certain words inscribed into my copy of the book borrowed from the Toronto Public Library and my mind wandered to the previous reader – who she might be? maybe a young girl who was given this book as an assignment for school or maybe a guy whose new year’s resolution was to learn the meanings of 5 new words and that’s why he scribbled on to them? I could leave my wonderings unanswered.

A story trapped inside a kindle or an iPad or another reading app is nothing but just a story, they are digitally embedded words; but a story trapped inside a book when borrowed from a library or purchased used or lent as new is passed through millions of hands captured with numerous of thoughts and feelings of those readers; maybe some who scribbled notes on the side (like my mysterious previous reader) or spilt coffee on it or even got an author to sign it for them. These stories inside a physical book tell yet another story, a story of a powerful relation that is formed between characters, events and ideas with the sense of touch of paper or whiff of ink.

And while it’s true that more pages of a book would rather be turned by a scroll on a screen rather than held physically between two fingers; eliminating a book’s physical existence ensures that the experience of reading in its most traditionalist form will eventually lose its true value and thereby its universal connection, altering its destiny for future years to come.

But as for me – I will still continue to borrow books from the library, try to return them on time and clutch to that inkling of hope that someday I will build a library of conventional books in a little corner of my house and will still have friends and family over to borrow them all the time. I will still hold the faith that the destiny of books doesn’t lie digitized in my iPhone app but lies on a simple sheet of paper with that familiar smell of fresh print.

My Chetan Bhagat Realization

– To Happy New Readings

I was transiting through the Hyderabad airport to catch my flight to Mumbai when I stopped to flutter around at a book store and involuntarily found my hand reaching out to grab the new Chetan Bhagat novel, Revolution 20-20. It was in that moment when it dawned on me.

Like many readers out there, I tend to pick up books written by the same authors I have read before, so for example since I had recently finished reading Amartya Sen’s book the Argumentative Indian, I immediately went and got his other book the Idea of Justice because I just had to read more essays written by him. But truth be told, I don’t like Chetan Bhagat’s writing at all. I do admire him for writing books for the mass Indian audience who probably would never have picked up a book in their lives if it wasn’t for him but apart from that I don’t fancy him being a good writer. His books are like movies made by Farah Khan – slightly entertaining, super predictable and soulless. But then why was it that I had read all of his books? And here I was reaching out to buy his latest release too? It hit me then that reading all of his books religiously throughout the timeline he had released/written them was due to a sincere inkling and wishful thinking to watch him as he grew in writing but I can sadly say that I have been sorely disappointed. CB has a clear-cut commercial formula in writing books that manages to make a good sale so why not just stick to the same theory every time? In one way one can’t blame him.

In another way though, reading a book by the same author is like going through the same life cycle every single day with the same job with the same people and in the same place. We find comfort in them and we find comfort in already knowing an author’s style of writing so it’s natural to make those same choices because it’s been proclaimed safe, but the question then arises; how does one ever grow? How will we ever know if making that drastic decision to move countries or taking that leap of faith by making a lifetime commitment or making a decision to change jobs could be well worth it or not? What if we never did grow out of our comfort zone and were well into our adulthood still reading books written by Enid Blyton? I am clandestinely terrified that someday I might outgrow my Harry Potter books but I know that that will be a sign of growth too (although I solemnly swear to cling on to Pottermania as long as I possibly can)

I read books for the same reason I make a life changing decision –

  • To learn something from, like when constantly reaching out for the dictionary reading  those million fancy words used by Amartya Sen of which I had no idea what they quintessentially (I hope that got you reaching out for the definition too) meant.
  • To admire or inspire from, like the concept of Yann Martel’s book Beatrice and Virgil and the ending to a Life of Pi which I thought was so unimaginably unique.
  • To feel strongly and powerful about something, like when reading the Saudi Arabian Princess trilogy by Jean Seasson and screaming silently in outrage for the unfair treatment of Middle Eastern women.
  • To laugh aloud with or cry like a baby on, like when giggling nonstop at  Rebecca Bloomwood mostly unsuccessful endeavors in the Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic series or when bawling after reading Anne Frank’s Diary.
  • But my most favorite one is to sink in that moment and clasp that page before it slips right through my forefingers and read a sentence written by an author that simply takes my breath away even for a split second like when ‘Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant’ – Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking or when you realize that ‘the question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me’ – Ayn Rand, The Fountain Head.

O happy pen. This is thy sheet. There ink, and let me begin – Anne Frontier
Quote from a book titled Juliet I had randomly picked up and was pleasantly surprised by, I singled it out because I had never read Shakespeare before and I have to appallingly admit that I didn’t know what thy, thee and thou really did mean (In case thou wondering, It means yours, you and you’re).

So thee should make it a point to not just read books whose names of authors thou hast heard from someone or based on a movie thee just saw the trailer of, but thee should pick up a book that belongs to a genre that thou hast not attempted to read before and/or written by a new author thee hast not heard of before (Phew!)

As for me, I changed my mind at that book store at the Hyderabad airport and set aside Revolution 20-20 and instead picked up a book known as the Emperors of the Peacock Throne by Abraham Eraly. Why did I pick it up? It was different since I hadn’t read historical books on India, I hadn’t heard of Eraly, the cover looked pretty and heck it was time for me to move on.

I am now going to read this book on the first six Mughal Emperors of India and give it a fair shot and if it makes me uncomfortable in the first few chapters that’s okay because I am going to push right through till the very end and like the many major decisions we have to make in life to move on ahead, a tiny choice in picking this book up might just be well worth it too.

It’s not to Brand Beginnings I cheer,
Let me End this by saying
Happy New Readings are here!

The Catch-22 of life

About the Author

It’s late at night and you are driving on a long seemingly never-ending road. You stop when you notice a bill board at a distance and you squint your eyes as you approach the border of a town where the signboard faintly says “It’s against the law to be able to read”. You think that the person who wrote this is totally crazy because how would I know it’s against the law if I wasn’t able to read in the first place? Welcome to catch-22. You’ve hit the town coined by Joseph Heller himself.

Born back in 1923, Heller is the American author of the comical satire historical book known as catch-22, regarded as one of the most highly accurate books based on American Servicemen during that time. He joined the US Army Air corps and flew 60 combat missions during the World War 2. His book, catch 22 is listed among the top 100 books of the century. He initially chose the number 18 but his publisher recommended 22 because it felt like a ‘funny number’. Heller died of heart attack in 1999.

Book Plot & Review (spoiler alert)

Sparked in the back drop of the second half of the World War 2, a military soldier named Yossarian wants to escape flying combat missions for the vain safety of his own life but the only way to be excused from it he learned was to be declared insane.

However, in Heller’s own words:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” Yossarian observed.

The book is split into various segments and is told through the eyes of Yossarian whose desire to live makes him seem like a complete coward faking illnesses to spend most of his time at hospitals trying endlessly to not get cured as opposed to marching out there to fight the war. He does his best to try to understand the glory and splendor it is to die at war but why bother when death is the end of it all anyway? As the story progresses, the secondary characters are unfolded around him and stories for the other major characters are developed in no particular chronological order; and although Yossarian is determined to stay alive through the war at all costs, he still cares deeply for the members of his squadron and their deaths leave him traumatized and deeply affected.

The book is well written and brilliantly structured but distracting at a few places. I didn’t find it absolutely hilarious but some parts did make me laugh. I think the book could most relate to someone who actually lived through the war and you can sense while reading that Heller has taken a lot of examples from his real life experience during combat. By the end of the book, Yossarian manages to lose all the members of his squad and he eventually wiggles free from this catch-22 situation and runs off to Sweden. The tone of the book turns from grey to black especially during the last few chapters of the book where the description is more detailed by the author and you start to feel a little empathy for the characters that you had only just started to take lightly a few chapters ago. An author once said a work of true fiction is when the book is able to provide comfort to the disturbed and disturb the comforted. But by the end of the book, I felt neither comforted nor disturbed. I only have respect for the author’s ability to comprehend an undefined situation and actually manage to define it.

Analysis

1- Catch- 22 situation does apply in our real lives; in 2007 I was giving an interview for a position in the accounting department of a Canadian Company. The Finance Manager asked me, “Why should I hire you? You have absolutely no experience”. I said, “Well no one wants to hire me precisely because I have no prior experience but how am I supposed to get experience if you don’t hire me in the first place?” Needless to say, I got the job. It was my first job ever fresh out of university and he was honestly the best boss I ever had. I never realized then I was caught in a catch 22 situation but I do now.

2- The main protagonist of the book, Yossarian is not your typical hero. You would think he is because he is the main character of the book and he is fighting the Germans through the World War 2 but his main concern is not to win the war for the Americans but to actually just manage to survive through it. He isn’t the conventional war hero because during that time lives were worthless and lost uselessly; so perhaps the best way to be a hero in those days was to manage to survive through it, something we are all trying to do with life today, aren’t we?

3- As the book unfolds, Yossarian realizes that Catch – 22 doesn’t exist, it’s merely a term made up by the American Bureaucracy to be allowed to do all the crazy shit such as kidnapping, rapes and murders of people because they have the power too. But in reality, they don’t.  Yossarian starts to fear the American Bureaucracy that he was fighting for more than the Germans he was fighting against. It signifies the rut we are all stuck in when it comes to the free market capitalistic philosophy of life. The parallel chord was struck between the secondary character Milo, brilliant but an insane man who manages to make a few bucks and profits through the war (something you first begin to admire then start to hate him for it) to the modern-day investment bankers or so-called corporate heroes whose pleas for public bailouts go unheard over the noise made by their private jets.

At the end of it, we are all very much in the same situation like Yossarain in the novel.  We go through life wondering what the meaning of life is but the only way to figure out the meaning of life is to keep going through it. Doesn’t that make it the ultimate catch – 22 of our lives?

PS – To All Americans, Happy Independence Day!

The Social Media Objection.

I read The Fountain Head by Ayn Rand more than a month ago; it is a 600 page book that explores the philosophy of objectivism. People had initially told me this book really messes with your head; unsurprisingly I got influenced by what people said to me before I read the book and when someone asked me after “How did you find the book?” I said, “It really messed with my head”.

I have always noticed that my first reaction to a question is not my reaction, it’s someone else’s. Maybe that’s why when that person asked me, “How did it mess with your head exactly?” I had nothing to say.

Now, I do.

As defined by Ayn Rand, ‘Objectivism is derived from the principal that human knowledge and values are not created by the thoughts one has but is created by the reality that exists independent of consciousnesses’.

The book revolved around two core characters at extreme ends of the line– Howard Roark and Peter Keating, both these men are architects by profession but with extremely different ways of doing things. Howard Roark is a kind of person who knows what he wants to do; he has a mind of his own, an embodiment of objectivity not influenced by anyone or anything. He wants to design buildings with his own independent artistic vision and no client can convince him otherwise. Peter Keating on the other hand wants to achieve success defined by power, money and fame; no matter how, whether it’s by sucking up to his clients or back stabbing his colleagues or fiercely stomping on his senior partners to climb that success ladder. He is a kind of person who gets easily influenced by anything that moves and goes with the flow with no real thoughts of his own. He does get to the top of his ladder.

But he doesn’t stay there too long. The book does have a happy ending with the fame fall of Keating and with the triumph of Roark who gets the opportunity to design a monumental skyscraper in the heart of the city and who also gets to win the girl of his dreams in the process. But as someone said, things that are worth having don’t come easy and victory didn’t come easy for Roark either; I can safely say that, having read through the pain and suffering he had to endure for 600 pages.

The Fountain head was written in 1943, well it was published then, Ayn started writing it in 1929. But that was what I loved about the book, it was written back then, when the concept of objectivism had just started getting its due attention; although this book is popular now more than ever. Why it is more popular now is because objectivism is a concept that just cannot possibly exist in this day. It is merely an idea that everyone knows exists out there but no one can develop it further on their own.

I recently met a guy at a house party and we had a very stimulating conversation, it felt enlivening, the ability to connect with that one particular someone and having long uninterrupted intimate tête-à-tête about things that actually make sense as opposed to talking to a bunch of ‘friends’ about your summer vacation plans.

Before we parted ways, I asked him, “hey are u on face book?” and he replied “Nope, I don’t believe in social media”.

I thought “Weirdo!!” and ran.

With the social media up and rising, people just cannot be objective today. It is absolutely impossible to not get influenced by what someone writes or what someone says, whether you read the Economic times daily or you follow someone on twitter or you read a link posted by someone on face book. People have lost the ability to think for themselves; no you cannot come up with a grand idea in a matter of seconds and definitely not with being interrupted by constant bbm’s and status updates and continuous tweets because you do tend to read people’s status updates, their tweets and formulate your ‘own’ opinion based on it. How can you then develop your own independent style of thinking? Sit in a locked room? Immerse yourself into your work? Concentrate. Don’t let distractions get to you? We are out there exposed; exposed to 500+ people, 500+ random people that we talk to about, actually about absolutely nothing. All of these people are doing nothing but providing you with distraction. How can you become an independent thinker without listening to your one inner voice? And how can you hear yourself when you are multi tasking and listening to the voices of 500 different others?  

But the worst part is not that we can’t think for ourselves, but rather that people can’t make out the difference anyway. They don’t know if their thoughts are actually their own or that of that one random person they bumped across in the mall the other day. In today’s society, our minds are in fact nothing but a blend of everyone else’s thoughts.

One or two of you are probably reading this and thinking how absolutely true all of this is. Now you are going to go off and deactivate your face book account, shut down your twitter account and are going to start thinking deeply and profoundly concentrating on work (yea right). Most of you, will deep down know this makes complete sense but will do absolutely nothing about it.

Bottom line being, what you just read now influenced you and I don’t blame you, because the book influenced me to write this in the first place. The only independent & objective part I added to it was the comparison of the fictional world Ayn Rand created post the great depression era to the reality era we live in now, subject to the depression created by our social media.

In Praise of Yann Martel

Close your eyes. Describe what you see.

I see darkness. I see spots. I see grains. I see Emptiness. I see black.

Open your eyes. Imagine the blind. What do they see when they close their eyes?

You don’t know. I don’t know.

What do you think is the hardest thing for a blind person to imagine? Shapes? Numbers? I don’t think so, he can learn them with the touch of his hand can’t he? How about colors? He knows the sky is blue. But what is blue? How does he know what any color looks like?

I absolutely loved Yann Martel’s first novel. Life of Pi. Borrowed it of a friend, Penelope, and was half tempted to never return it back (she has a memory of a gold fish that’s why). But I did return it, only so I could go and purchase a copy of my own to proudly display over my book shelf. Life of Pi really made me think, the book had levels unimaginable. But then again as Yann Martel puts it – what’s unlike the unthinkable to make people believe? I still do have a few questions unanswered from the book. If anyone knows, what did the meerkats symbolize in the book? I still have no idea. That’s the beauty of Yann Martel’s writing. He makes you think, he makes you analyze, he gets you drilling and he gets you wondering about questions that you knew were buried deep within somewhere but just needed an instigation to leap out.

I was anxious to read his second novel but he took 9 years to come out with Beatrice and Virgil. 9 years from the time Life of Pi was published in 2001 and it seemed like a freakishly long period to keep a fan waiting. Would it be worth it? Life of Pi was not just an international bestseller but a man booker prize winning book and it is always hard to scale the graph when you are already at the peak. However, the idea of his new book gave a new meaning to originality, there was a donkey and a howler monkey named Beatrice and Virgil respectively, a story of two stuffed animals and a series of conversations between the two leading to an illusionistic representation of the Holocaust beginning with the description of a fruit. It took me just two evenings to finish the book  because I couldn’t stop turning the pages. All I can say is, it was worth the wait.

Beatrice & Virgil started off with the story of a writer named Henry whom I like to think of as Yann Martel’s first choice for a pen name instead of the other way around as it is portrayed in the book. Henry is intoxicated with the idea of writing a book on a subject as highly sensitive as the holocaust and decides to make a flip book of it only to be hounded like dogs by his editors who think of it as an outrageously bad idea. There starts his journey to finally discover the unforeseen lead characters for his new novel nine years later.

Now you are wondering about the first few paragraphs. What was that nonsense about a blind man and not being able to see colors? I don’t know, but perhaps it’s the inspiration from Henry’s idea of creating a flip book which he never finally got to achieve. A flip book lets you choose how you want to read your story. You can now read the first few paragraphs and then the following line.

In praise of Yann Martel, words are magic; if he can write a whole chapter on a pear, he can without a doubt describe blue to a blind man.

Becoming Jane’s Fan.

I recently entered the world of literature created from the feisty imagination of Jane Austen herself. The first copy I grabbed to start reading five years ago was in fact Pride and Prejudice (no guesses there, everyone has heard of this book). I’ll be sincere; it took me six months to finish reading this classic. Maybe it was because I didn’t appreciate literature back then or maybe it was because the writing style was quite different and beyond my grasp. But it did actually at one point in time, to put it lightly – bore me to death.

Ergo enter the year 2010, this year I was gifted two books – Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park. I also managed to finish most of her other books including Emma and my personal favorite Northanger Abbey. I am yet to read the Persuasion, however, I am quite certain I will start and finish the book before we hit New Years Eve making this a 2010 accomplishment.

Ironically enough, I entered the Jane Austen book club in the same year it was discovered by Oxford academics that Jane’s work was vastly edited by William Gifford, a poet and a critic of her era. Analysis of her manuscripts came heavily down to the conclusion that Jane couldn’t spell and had bad punctuation manners; also the Hampshire accents described in her book are anything but real. But none of this really mattered to me or to hard core Janeite’s (a term coined by Rudyard Kipling) I am sure. Because nobody reads her books for her flawless grammar usage or her perfect punctuation marks. Even the spellings of words used in her time won’t do us any good in this era. People read her books for her well developed and intricate characters which are so complex and far from perfection but yet make us yearn to be like them or with them in their social setting.

Austen manages to draw a line between good and evil, whether it’s from Mr Darcy’s (Pride and Prejudice) arrogant behavior that makes you hate him at first to his sudden declaration of Love for Elizabeth which then makes you fall in love with him. Or if its Edward Ferrers (Sense and Sensibility) betrayal towards Elinor Dashwood when the readers find out he has been engaged to another woman to how you eventually learn to appreciate his integrity and honor to stick with his decision thus exemplifying the gentleman code of loyalty. A person can be good and bad at the same time and that is exactly what Jane Austen brings to your attention with characters of people that are real, because that’s how the world really is, even now. So even though Mr Darcy is conceited and arrogant; his refined personality, his undying persistent love for Elizabeth that brings humility within him, his intelligence and his forthright nature makes him a good person and a suitable match for the protagonist of the book at the end of the day. Similarly, Mr Ferrers may not be handsome or dashing, he may instead be timid, awkward and dependent on his mother’s income to support himself but he is also benevolent, sympathetic and has a good sense governed by fair judgment and understanding which is what Elinor Dashwood remains attracted to the most.

But it’s not just the male characters that are misunderstood in her books, the female ones are an equal mystery as well. For example, Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) who secretly harbors feelings for Edmund Bertram (who is in love with another woman), and continuously rejects the charming and rich Mr Henry Thorpe. Despite his persistence in continuous courtship and flirtatious behavior towards her, she gets confused and accepts his proposal only to go back on her word the next day. Or our favorite heroine, the quick witted Elizabeth Bennet who is prejudiced against the handsome Darcy and constantly battling her emotions towards him while alluring and leading Mr Wickham on at the same time only to eventually fall in love with Mr Darcy herself. Or if it’s the slightly spoiled and meddlesome young woman named Emma who is determined to remain a spinster all her life but wants to play cupid and specialize in match making services with everyone else around her all the while refusing to face her own deep feelings for a certain Mr Knightley who is not only her best friend but her biggest critic as well. Or if it’s the obsessed by Gothicism, Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey) who makes crazy ludicrous assumptions by suspecting the General of murdering his wife only to manage to look like a fool in front of the man she loves the most, the ever so fine Mr Henry Tilney.

These women seem deeply confused and that is the one parallelism we draw from these characters and the modern day women. It’s fascinating to know that it’s not just this generation’ women that are messed up, Jane Austen created these characters way back in the 1800’s. What a relief for us isn’t it? We were under the impression that it’s because of today’s advancement of women and the development of technology that has given us so many more choices which has made women of our generation hasty and quick in making assumptions and passing judgments only to be stranded in a portal of confusion, but it’s not just that; it’s an innate quality that comes imbedded in our chromosomes from generations earlier that makes us that way. Or perhaps Jane Austen never did write and inspire from real individuals in her time and instead coughed up these main characters all from her imagination, but even if she did, her imagination for back in the day would have been considered wild and absurd but it wasn’t, hence justifying the truth beneath these qualities.

I admire Jane, for choosing a path that wasn’t considered suitable back in the day; she didn’t choose to marry although I am pretty certain she wanted to, considering all her book themes revolve around the same, she didn’t choose to specialize in knitting or learning to play piano. Instead she chose to drive down the road of a writer, a profession which hadn’t received its due credit and high regard back in the day. After recent developments I admire her more because it was discovered that her writing wasn’t perfect which makes her an almost normal person like most of us. But most of all I admire her for influencing us with the characters in 1800’s brought to life through her books and reminding us that we are not alone in this mess of a world of emotions.

Anne Frank – The Diary of a young girl

When it comes to narrating personal horrors during the time of the holocaust, Anne Frank’s diary provides a different view point in response to the anti-Semitic fervor that had shocked the nation during that time. It recounts two years of a 13 year old girl’s life when she was forced into hiding with two families which included her own as well. The hiding place commonly known as Secret Annexe was originally known as Het Achterbuis which simply meant the house behind referring to the back of the office building where her father, Otto Frank used to work.

On her 13th birthday, Anne Frank was gifted a diary by her parents and the diary which she fondly referred to as Dear Kitty became her constant companion throughout the two years spent in Het Achterbuis.

Funnily enough even though I knew what the title of the book was, I was still expecting something different. I didn’t realize that I would be, in fact, just actually reading someone else’s diary.  It was like having a secret key to a lock that grants you private access to someone else’s thoughts. You are forgiven to read about her feelings and her intimate moments; you are permitted to eavesdrop on her opinions and judgments passed on about the people living with her.

The book was written with such simplicity yet with a commanding usage of words for a thirteen year old which manages to grip you even if all Anne is doing is describing the doorway entrance. While reading the book, you start to picture yourself living in your own little Secret Annexe and wondering how did a group of eight Jews manage to survive over 24 months without so much so as a trickle of news from the world outside. But then again, if the world outside isn’t so friendly; I guess you don’t have another option.

For the first time in my life, I cried after finishing a book. I cried like a baby. I cried because it hurt so much to see how the life of the young girl finally ended, shy of sixteen. I cried because she had become someone I knew personally and it pained me to find out her devastating end.

Her last entry was simple; you don’t see it coming because neither does she. She had to abandon her diary abruptly because two years later, Secret Annexe wasn’t a secret anymore. She was taken away and forced to leave behind her Dear Kitty. After her death, her memories lived on through her diary and her wish to continue living after death was ultimately fulfilled.

“Out of the millions that were silenced, this voice no louder than a child’s whisper has outlasted the shouts of the murderers and has soared above the voices of time” – Ernst Schnabel

Grab this book and read it intently because a young girl once captured her soul into it. If not a bucketful of tears, I can guarantee you that she will find a place in your heart.

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To kill a mockingbird

To kill a mockingbird has always been described as a timeless classic and I have always wanted to get my hands on a copy. Initially the first section of the book is just about the character introduction and the background setting of the era but the heart of the book outlines the racial discrimination in the segregated American south black and white population. As the book progresses, and the characters turn deeper, they leave a vivid impact on the reader, we tend to realize that even though the world we live in is a cynical and pessimistic one, a person must always try and do the right thing even if the consequences are never usually right. Although, the plot discusses a range of characters whether black or white, their decisions and their actions are comprehended as grey even through the eyes of a 6 year old.

The main protagonist of the book is a 6 year old girl, Scout, a tomboy who grows up in the fields of a small town in Alabama and her father, Finch a highly reputed lawyer who takes on a case of a black man accused of raping a white woman. Of course, this book was published nearly 50 years ago, however, it still remains appropriate in today’s day and age because of the world filled with contempt and corruption that is a suggestive description of the human inclination towards truth and simultaneous disgust for it. “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” Atticus Finch, tells his children in the book; here Lee uses the mockingbird as a symbol for innocence where we naturally assume the black man is the innocent one who doesn’t stand a chance with the judicial system back in the 30’s.

The best part of the book is naturally Harper’s narration, told from the view point of a 6 year old girl, the book is plain and simple – very truthful and deals with multiple themes. It is funny to see the world through the eyes of kids and their pungent desire to explore, the book deals with the coming of age for Scout and her brother as well as more serious issues such as racial injustice, social classes within blacks and whites as well as killing of innocence.

All in all, rarely has literature been this perfect