Around the world in a lifetime of reading…

Long ago, while browsing through books in a library, a thought crossed my mind – why don’t I pick up books from various authors around the world and start reading them one by one, like a lifelong project… Well, like other millions of thoughts, I didn’t act on it and completely forgot about it.

However, in recent past, I have given a boost to reading good literature on a continuous basis. Without realizing, I have read selected works of Albert Camus (Algerian), Franz Kafka (Czech Republic), Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy (both Russian), Herman Melville, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner (All American), Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir (both French), Bertrand Russell, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell (All English), Jorge Luis Borges (Argentine), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombian), J M Coetzee (South African) and so on.. Off course, I have read works of Indian greats such as Jawaharlal Nehru, R K Narayan, Prem Chand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Khushwant Singh among others…

As I analyze It does seem to me that somewhere in my sub conscious, the particular thought remained registered. I would confess that I started with existentialism literature and alongside I picked up books of different writing styles (Borges, Garcia, Woolf, Coetzee, Kerouac etc. to name a few), all without intention. Not to forget, a great course I completed in summer 2013 on the Coursera platform – “a fiction of relationship” offered by Dr Arnold Weinstein of Brown University, which required reading 5-10 books as a part of curriculum. I am pretty glad that I completed the course and got to read wonderful books as a result.

All in all, I am pleased that I did follow up on what seems like a great idea to understand the myriad worlds that are so different from where I was born and earning and breaking my bread. The reading is the best I can do in lieu of travelling the world and get to experience things in real life. and when I do land up in few of these places mentioned above, I hope I would appreciate the culture a bit better.

I plan to now consciously go for great authors from various parts of the world and read to my content (or rather continent :)). At the same time, I plan to also read multiple works of these authors mentioned above, as some of them have written a number of masterpieces.

To achieve my objective seriously, internet has been of great help – I am trying to follow the 2 lists mentioned below to complete my objective;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_100_Best_Books_of_All_Time

http://web.stanford.edu/~bkunde/best/bl-crank.htm

I regret that I wasn’t a literature student as a part of my formal education – However, I plan to make up for it by being a life long student of good literature, wherever it originates from.

I would close by mentioning few wonderful piece of prose from a  book I read recently, “Love in the time of cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book has a generous helping of some simple, yet meaningful piece of prose and I did made a note of these clever gems whenever I came across one. Here are some top ones:

“…But when a woman decides to sleep with a man, there is no wall she will not scale, no fortress she will not destroy, no moral consideration she will not ignore at its very root: there is no God worth worrying about…”

“…She knew that he loved her above all else, more than anything in the world, but only for his own sake…”

“…She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them…”

“….Always remember that the most important thing in a good marriage is not happiness, but stability…”

“…With her Florentino Ariza learned what he had already experienced many times without realizing it: that one can be in love with several people at the same time, feel the same sorrow with each, and not betray any of them. Alone in the midst of the crowd on the pier, he said to himself in a flash of anger: ‘My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse…”

“…I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of Him…”

“…She searched the truth with an anguish almost as great as her terrible fear of finding it…”

Some thoughts on why I blog?

I am not a blogger, nor I intend to be. I am just expressing my thoughts and leaving it in space and see if someone catches it. Because if I speak about what I write, I will be talking to myself, which is not exactly pleasant. Plus I get to record my thoughts. Plus it gives you an insight into my mind – Not that you are interested anyway.

I am not and don’t pretend to be an expert in the areas I write about. Whatever I post are simply my thoughts and deepest feelings about random issues and topics, which people in real life are least interested about. That’s the way I am I guess – I care about inconsequential while ignore the essentials.

Urge to express myself is increasing with every day I spend. May be it’s a passing fad. May be I just need to get it out of the system.

Let me pick up a book to read…

Anybody for a nice Conversation?

Conversations as I write, face extinction. No, I don’t mean the kind we have everyday, but the one that forces you to think, gets the ‘real’ you talking, that kind. The one that forces you to take a position, a fundamental, philosophical position and not just the one that is somebody else’s view making way through your mouth. The one that has gracious helpings of your attitude, your views and how you perceive life. The one that will blow away your facade and exposes the real you, without you bothering about what your interlocutor would think!

When was the last time you had a real conversation like this, and how you wished it would never end?

Off course, we do ‘talk’ a lot in our daily lives. How much of these ‘talks’ have you really hooked on, is not difficult to guess. But we have to do it anyway. We talk to family, co-workers, shopkeepers, tele-callers and so on. About real mundane issue, that are important for us to carry out our daily chores. Here’s a listing of what constitutes 90% of what I talk about on a nice, sunny weekday of my life:

  1. Food: What to eat, where to eat from (if eating out)
  2. Work: to-do things, meetings, general bitching about boss / co-workers, working conditions, speed of execution etc.
  3. Newspaper headlines: On political issues / crime situation / sports / current affairs / Bizarre happenings around
  4. Weather / Commuting etc.
  5. Listen and respond to things others have to say

The remaining 10% is what I converse with myself, which is not related to above and gets me thinking and shakes up my brain.  This 10% is what I really would like to talk about. Most of it, however, evaporates without conclusion.

Why is it so difficult to have a ‘real conversation’?

Well, to have a conversation, you need someone to keep up and respond to the discussion with same (or more) vigor and enthusiasm. A highly unlikely event unless the topic under discussion lies in the intersection of your / your interlocutor’s interests. Being reserved and introverted doesn’t help either.

Secondly, finite time. With our busy lives, spending time on something which doesn’t have a real value (except intellectual satisfaction), would seem like a bad deal. Being ‘to-the-point’ is the motto. Reach office. work. Head back home.

Finally, the mode. Good, long conversations happens face-to-face with visual and other body cues. The instant messaging / anything over internet is a conversation killer. One does a multiple things while conversing over internet / IM (check mail, read news, listen to music, watch a video etc.)

Now I know why long for the weekends – searching for those elusive conversations.

Mediocrity is the new perfection…

While returning from a recent road trip, my friend and I were discussing about “what do you want to achieve before we hit 40?”. I guess making a to-do list is in fashion. Anyway, a lot of things came up. While my friend focused on consolidating and strengthening his wishlist (the one that is quite constant from past 10 years or so), I was thinking of new things I could add into the list. I wonder how many ‘ticks’ each one of us would have managed in our lists when we indeed hit 40.

The point is not the list, it is what a tick mark on that list item signify? That you have done it, done it well or done it exceedingly well? My friend was clear – Do it exceedingly well. Take up whatever you want to do, excel in that and move on. Simple. Not quite.

I do not / never could follow this line of thought. Whenever I take up something, understand it and by the time I do that and do it reasonably well, something else catches my fancy, and off I go. Its the breadth of experiences that matter to me rather than depth. I want to know so many things in the limited time that we have at disposal. There’s so much to do in life, varied things to try and learn, that I feel if I attempt to be an expert at something, I would just lose too much time and lose the curiosity. and then it will be end of my useful life.

There is more to it. It is the perfection vs. mediocrity debate. I am fine with being mediocre in a number of things rather than becoming an expert in few. No, it is not the same thing as “Jack vs. Master”. its just that I never get obsessed about anything. I have not wanted something really really badly. If I don’t get it, its fine. May be there’s something else waiting for me. and something else. and so on…

I wonder is it because of the life my parents lived? Same city, same profession, same food, same lifestyle. Somewhere I remember saying to myself that “I will not fear change, but embrace it”. I am not sure I have been able to stick to it or not – but in last 6 years, I have lived in 4 different cities and have changed my profession thrice. A thought of settling down and ‘living happily ever after’ never crossed my mind. I kept on forcing a change or change happened to me. Stability scares me.

I know one must rest, settle down, take mortgage, work like hell, move up the ladder, earn ever more, upgrade, and so on…But who wants to go down a beaten path? Take the road less traveled, or make your own path – not to reach anywhere, but just to travel. Because milestones, like experts, bore me.

 

You’ve got mail…by Post.

Waiting for a letter, any letter, is one of the many vivid childhood memories I have. I remember the excitement with which I used to ask the postman – “Is there any letter you are dropping to my house?”. It used to be a definitive moment. If the postman indeed was carrying a letter for my family, I took joy in becoming the harbinger to my family, even though it would be as mundane as a promotional letter of no consequence. If there was no letter, well, better luck next time. What I wouldn’t do is miss asking the postman about letters.

I remember all sorts of letters – there was a blue inland letter, which had ample writing space and could be folded neatly into a letter for which you don’t need envelope and stamp. In fact, the written matter was also concealed from everyone. Then there was this khaki envelope, which used to carry letter written on loose sheets. This was also the envelope that was the preferred choice for sending rakhi. There was the telegram, which either used to carry good or bad news succinctly in a format that the postal department had decided. It was a tense moment opening a telegram.

Finally, there was the humble postcard. The cheapest mode of sending your communication across, albeit, open for all. That is, anyone could read what you’ve written. That did not deter people from writing personal stuff and sending it across. I myself have read so many postcards – because we (my friends and I) had somehow known the mechanism to open the lock of the famous red iron letter box where everyone used to deposit their letters for collection. It was a wonderful experience, for it was forbidden and and at the same time, joy of being able to open the letter box.

I cant remember when was the last time I had received a written letter of some importance, or a Post Card from a friend or relative. Only letters that I get are from credit card, banks and insurance companies. and sometimes from a shopping mall or a showroom. Now these are also stopped because of the ‘go green’ initiatives of these organizations. Emails, Messaging, Skype can never bring back the excitement of hand written letters. Waiting anxiously for an email is not at all comparable to waiting for a letter, for it brought joy that is difficult to measure in words. Time, anticipation, patience all contributed to it. The instant gratification of today’s communication mediums just cannot match up.

With internet becoming all pervasive, these mediums may eventually become extinct. Poor telegram has already breathed its last on July 14, 2013. My grouse is that the electronic font’s just don’t convey the same feelings (explains why I don’t buy a kindle). I guess the spontaneity is all gone with back space, delete and undo options. Agreed that we did tear a lot of paper for getting the right stuff on paper, but guess editing and trimming is far more overpowering than it is in the hand written format. Well, as they say, you gotta live with the times, for they-are-a-changing. But, I would still await and continue to ask the postman for letters with that childlike excitement.

Letters were a great form of conversations and exchange of ideas / views in a patient setting, which alas, has lost out to Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype etc. Omnipresence, instant communication and being available 24X7 scares me to hell. At least there were no trolls in between, and it felt way personal.

Anyway, conversations are dying too. More on that some other day.

P.S. I was travelling recently and decided to send some postcards to myself – and felt awesome while I received them back home. Now, I have made a resolution that I will send post cards to myself whenever I am travelling to a new place. If you want to get included in the list, just send a word :).

Of unread mails, messages and missed calls…

If you miss a call on purpose, sit on an email / message for eternity and sometimes just wish to bury your neck deep in sand and be anti-social for a while, read on.

 

Every now and then comes along a busy day/s, different from usual, full of meetings and travel. I enjoy these days – they break monotony and provide a respite from clockwork. However, they upset me in a very unusual way. At the end of these busy days, I have a heap of calls that I missed, mails that I didn’t read, and messages I did not reply to.

Not a big issue, one may argue. This problem is faced by many on a daily basis, and they solve it diligently. Not me, sir.

Especially, when the list of messages, emails etc. contains a name of someone I know, but just don’t have motivation and will to talk to the person. I just continue delaying a response and continue my life. But in my mind, lies a latent guilt that I have to return a call / message and the face of that person.

I would not classify myself as an anti-social being, but I am afraid I can’t be put up there with the gregarious ones. For me, its comfort and convenience before taking efforts to upkeep relationships with, well, persons I would want to be connected to.

And suddenly this period of delay becomes inordinate and my relations with the person concerned, well, not exactly stay cordial. It’s the largesse of those people on the other hand, who would call me time and again, continuing to be connected to me.

This has happened with me umpteen times and has caused many a relationships, sour.

Yet, I know I will not change.

 

 

 

Realization….

The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning.
– Albert Camus

This is what it is about. This is what I want to write about. I may not be able to speak about in real life, but expressions long for a canvas, for its existence to meet its essence.