Wednesday, August 09, 2017

My grandmother asked me to tell you she is sorry

1. Where had you go, Bernadette- Maria Semple

I do not want to spend any time on writing about this book, I already spent enough reading it ;-). Boring!

2. My grandmother asked me to tell you she is sorry - Fredrick Backman

Frustrating. This one just didn't work for me, although it has good reviews and ratings if you want to give it a try.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Truly Madly Guilty


1. Cider house rules 2. A prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
Irving is a very well reputed writer, most of his books have 4.5+ starts on Goodreads, some consider his books as the literary triumph. But sadly I just didn't get what the hoopla is all about, did not like the stories or the story telling, it is just way too lengthy and I found it uninteresting.


3. Truly Madly Guilty - Liane Moriarty
Slowness, lack of pull and the sheer dullness of characters - that sums it up. 1/5*

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wonderstruck

1. Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick
This is a story about two characters - Ben and Rose
Ben's story is told solely through writing, while Rose's is told through Selznick's gorgeous illustrations. Ben's story in words, Rose's in pictures, come together in deafness. And I loved how the author made their intertwining histories flow so smoothly. Good for ages 5+ (my guess). My rating is 4/5*.

2. The theory of everything: the origin and fate of the universe - Stephen Hawking
Have you read Brief history of time? I thought it was too difficult to understand. The theory of everything is easy to understand, although there are better books by other authors on the subject of universe. I give it 3/5*.

3. Rozabal Line - Ashwin Sanghi
I liked Chanakya's chant and The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi. 'Rozabel Line' made me resolve never to buy a novel just because you liked another one from the author (for example from the one time wonder Chetan Bhagat). A pretty confusing book...there are a couple of new characters being introduced on every page...it's a struggle to remember the names and characters. 1/5*

Friday, July 07, 2017

The author at work


1. The author at work: the art of writing fiction - Jenna Blum
Very insightful and inspiring, for everyone who aims to be a writer. 5/5*

2. A brief history of time - Stephen Hawking
Honestly I did not understand it, also read briefer history of time which is a bit easier to comprehend.

3. The Girl in the spider's web
This is the next book in the series of Stieg Larsson's 'the girl with the dragon tattoo'. Lizbeth Salander being my most favorite fictional characters of all times, okay may be after Dagny Taggart from Atlas Shrugged, I had to read this book. Since Stieg Larsson is no more this is written by another writer and is a complete disappointment. 1/5*

Friday, June 02, 2017

Me before you


1. 7 habits of highly effective people - Stephen R. Covey
The first time I read it I was probably 18, I loved it then and loved it now. 5/5*


2. 8th habit - Stephen R. Covey
It is not as good as 7 habits, probably just written to cash on the success of 7 habits. 2/5*

3. Me before you - Jojo Moyes
Reading this book was a mistake because I hate these kind of books where a girl meets a boy who happens to be a billionaire and he helps her get out of her comfort zones, acquire skills, be fearless and towards the end make her rich. If you want money - here is the message - earn it yourself, why do you need a 'man' to fix you?... Pathetic and just a cry baby story. 0/5, not sure why it has 4.5 rating on goodreads!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The war of art

1. The war of art - Steven Pressfield
I love to create, make things - be it cook a dish, create a painting or write. I dream to be a published writer one day and it takes a lot of work. The main enemy that a creator has to fight with everyday is resistance, these kind of books provide a kick in the butt. Good book overall 4/5*

2. Grit - Angela Duckworth
People who start smart do not necessarily end up smart. There are so many people I know who went to low rated schools, colleges, got some mediocre degrees but at the end were more successful than people who started smart, came first in the class or went to good schools/colleges. The x-factor needed for success is called Grit. Liked the book- 4/5*.

3. The elements of style - William Strunk Jr.
This is a must read book for anyone and everyone who has to write in English - even if it is an email - you have to read this book. When I am done reading any book I either sell it at half price books or donate it but this one will always remain on my book shelf - to be read over and over again. 5/5*.

Monday, May 22, 2017

13 Reasons Why

[** names changed in this post, mostly]
[** I am going out of my comfort zone to share these details ... just trying to make a point]

Humiliation - When I was in junior college one day there appeared huge drawings of nude girls on the walls of my classroom. All walls were covered with them and more drawings were added each day.


Underneath each drawing it was written 'Rasika Mahabal'....


No need to tell you that this came as a shock for me, I felt extremely sad. At 17-18 years of age kids are generally very innocent (of course not the ones involved in such activities), they are just going about their business - happy to be over with school life and be a part of college. Cheap things like these are humiliating and terrifying, more so for the innocent minds.


Every time I entered the classroom many of the girls looked at me as if somehow I had called for it and deserved it. If boys are assholes, girls are no less. Many teachers took notice of the drawings - how come no one took an action on it I wondered.


At that time I didn't know what was happening is called Bullying. When it happens the victim feels depressed, humiliated and does not gather the strength to take action on it because they feel embarrassed, even though it is not their fault.


Rumor has it - a friend asked me if I was dating a boy named Aditya in college, my answer was no and then the friend said 'he is telling everyone that he is in a relationship with you'. I was shocked to hear this and thought what other lies is he telling about me? Not that I was against the idea of having a boyfriend but definitely had a problem with having a fake one! [I have never dated anyone by that name].


The guy was in my group, he was a quiet, shy soul, someone who didn't open his mouth unless spoken to. May be he was going through peer pressure and wanted to show off that he had a girlfriend. Whatever the reason - there is no justification for these kind of actions. Spreading rumors is also called Bullying, the victim does not get a chance to defend in such cases. (There is a difference between venting to a good friend and spreading rumors).


Gossip Girl - One of my good friend informed me that a girl called Prajakta is constantly saying bad things about me to everyone and gossips about why and how much she hates me. My first question was 'Who is Prajakta?'. Our class had more than 100 students and I had never interacted with anyone by that name. So even though I didn't know this person she was gossiping hateful things about me - this is also called bullying.


I agree that we all have tinges of jealousy - specially at that age. I almost always felt jealous when I saw good looking girls with great bodies (as superficial as it may sound) or when I saw someone dating handsome hunks. I too did not like some girls for whatever reasons - it does not mean I gossiped or went on saying hateful things about them, rather no one did that in my group at the time. I have a post on gossiping here - Gossip Girl.


The inappropriate touch - Touching anyone against their wish is also bullying. This happened a few times with me just like any other person commuting in Mumbai locals or Pune PMTs.


Cyber bullying -  With the advent of camera phones and social media I can only imagine the kind of bullying teenagers have to face today. When my emails were hacked (by someone I knew) I used to get nightmares that the person was in my room and was watching all my activities. I cut down all my ties with the person...you can find that post at - Guilty Pleasures.
People posting comments/blogs anonymously are the worst kind, they are the bullies with no balls - hiding behind the cloaks of anonymity.


Other aspects of bullying are :
name calling - you are the most X person I have met in my life
controlling
teasing
excluding a person from the group without reason
Betraying a good friend
Male chauvinist pigs are always bullies - they compare, define and make women do things based on gender roles.
belittling a person


There are many more incidences big and small that happened in junior college but I think you get the gist.


How did I deal with bullying?


I felt shocked, hurt, sad, depressed, lost my confidence every time I was bullied - the drawings incident was quite traumatic for me, I did not go to college for a couple of weeks after that, it was the last month of junior college and if it wasn't I would have somehow mustered the courage to sit in that classroom, now to think of it I shouldn't have missed college even a single day because by not showing up I let the bullies know that I had given them the power.


To be honest with you I went through a phase when I thought everybody hates me, but then I did not get stuck in that train of thoughts.. Few people hating you does not mean everyone does. I did not keep worrying/over thinking about what kind of image I had, it really doesn't matter what people think - a bunch of weirdos doing the drawings, spreading rumors or gossiping does not define our character but it defines their character for sure. Revenge or humiliating the person in return does not work (that is my opinion).


On a lighter note - I had rejected a few boys in college, threw away their roses, cards, letters, proposals - so my guess is that the drawings were a retaliation from one of the rejected entities, I am glad I rejected them whoever it was ;-). Grapes are sour to the fox who could not reach them.


One feels scared and sad when they hear about acid attacks as a result of rejection.


Whenever I was touched inappropriately I immediately took another seat in the bus or screamed on the road and many times hit the person hard with my elbow. I am sure even boys are subjected to inappropriate touches.


Having hobbies helps - it is something you can draw joy from, I looked forward to spending every new day with enthusiasm just to be able to read, write, sing, dance and paint. I also had a couple of good friends - not just in college. Meaning - I had a life outside of college.


The atmosphere in the educational institutes makes a huge difference, the next college I got an admission in is a very well reputed college - where I met some amazing progressive people and the entire atmosphere in the college matched my sensibilities. The professors were a lot more involved in the classrooms and students than in my previous college, they were also very approachable, so if anything had to happen students had someone to talk to.


13 reasons why - I recently watched a TV show '13 reasons why' based on teen suicides as a result of bullying. The show has become an instant hit on Netflix. A girl commits suicide and makes cassettes to let people know how she was bullied and how her suicide is justified. I thought the show is very well written and very well executed, it maintains the mystery-suspense aspect till the end, but here is the problem -


A girl committing suicide for being slut shamed and betrayed by friends...??? She thinks she is impure because she was touched inappropriately - in that sense every woman commuting in locals and PMT is impure? What is the show promoting? That a suicide is justifiable by blaming it on bunch of idiots? The girl never ever takes any action on the things happening to her, a cry baby, a drama queen with intense victim consciousness, people around her (including boys) are actually going through more troubles and are bullied more (and yet surviving and fighting) than what she was.


I understand that at that age kids are extremely sensitive and small things can affect them big time (experienced it first hand), but that does not mean anything is worth committing suicide for. The truth is bullying does not stop at junior college - it goes on in every phase of life - I remember being bullied during masters, at work (by extremely controlling bosses and team mates) and many more places. I bet each one of you reading this post has experienced bullying, also there is a chance that each one of us has hurt people in some way (even if bullying was unintentional on our part). One needs to have the fighting spirit just to be able to survive through it, no one is born with it but has to work to get there.


Hopefully when teenagers watch '13 reasons why' they will realize the stupidity of it and not be convinced that suicide is the answer to problems. Or may be the show is trying to convey the same thing that it is all about the mindset with which we confront life. Do not get me wrong - bullying is wrong and so is not fighting against it.


13 reasons why the girl committed suicide are the ones (more or less) why I find myself a strong rebellious person with fighting spirit today, I have a thick skin now compared to those days. I am sure most of you will think the same if you watch the show.


As they say survival is always of the fittest...


People with intense victim consciousness are hard to live with too as I say it in this post - Vampires.


For all the parents:


A boy went to his mother and said 'mom, x y z are teasing me and calling me these names', mom said 'that is okay, why don't you go to school tomorrow and call them by these names' and the mom provided him with the list of names that he could call them with. So she taught the child that it is okay to tease people, take revenge and be involved in name calling. The boy is all grown up now and turns out to be the biggest bully in their family, who has made even his mother cry. So it is important that one does not inculcate the environment that motivates bullying.


There is an amazing book I read last month called 'mindset', it describes what kind of people become bullies, what kind of people get bullied, go in depression and become vampires and then the ones who become fighters - it is all about the mindset. It is very essential for all parents to be aware that kids go through bullying and might be too weak hearted to take it. Ask them how is it going... notice their mood changes... I know it would have made a difference for me if I had felt comfortable with at least one family member to express my issues without feeling embarrassed about it. Also, I feel every school/college needs to have a counselor who is accessible and approachable for all students to pour their heart out, someone who provides guidance.
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Other related posts - w o r d s - http://rasikam.blogspot.com/2014/03/w-o-r-d-s.html

Monday, May 15, 2017

Genome

1. Genome: The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters - Matt Ridley
A really great introduction to genetics. The book is divided into 23 chapters, representing the 23 different sets of chromosomes in the human body.

For most people who don't have a background in genetics(like me), the amount of material is overwhelming. My best advice is to skim to get the general idea and continue on. The concepts are intricate, but Matt Ridley does a great job breaking things down into digestible portions.

Despite the title, each chapter does not go into a detailed account of the function of each set of chromosomes. Good thing, too, since each chromosome serves a variety of different functions.

The book, while informative and intellectually stimulating, encourages us to ask very difficult questions. Instead of the coldly yet carefully studied discourse on genetics it could have been, the book joins human life and genetics together in a compassionate way.

Definitely recommended. 4/5*.


2. The life changing magic of tidying up - Marie Kondo
I do like be in a clean surrounding and definitely a great fan of minimalism, I keep things only if they will be used - this includes books too. I do not read any book twice (there are very few exceptions to it), so once I am done reading I either sell the book or donate it - give it to someone who I know will enjoy reading it. Anyway, so the book title fascinated me. But here is my advice - clean up your house/ surroundings/ life and the first thing you should get rid of is this book (if you already own it) :-). There are better articles on minimalism and stuff like that on zenhabits.net. 1/5*

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Modern Romance

1. Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari
We already know all the stuff that the author talks about - rise of online dating or open relationships. I liked his unbiased approach to technology and everything in relationships- citing both positives and negatives.
Aziz has only looked into middle class and heterosexual relationships in detail which is a limited worldview. It was an okay read - nothing great about it 2/5*



2. Go set a watchman - Harper Lee
I read this book because it is written by Harper Lee - the writer of one of my favorite books 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. I often wondered why she didn't write another book? Was she scared of failure after experiencing so much success with the first book? Who knows... Go set a watchman was a complete disappointment. 1/5 * - but do read 'To Kill A Mockingbird' if you haven't already.

3. The Hidden Reality: parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos - Brian Greene
I read it because it is writen by Brian Green - the writer of a masterpiece 'The elegant universe', I did not like The Hidden Reality as much. I need to read his book 'the fabric of cosmos' - have heard good reviews on that. 3/5*

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Twenties Girl

1. Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella
I think you already know by now how much I love Sophie Kinsella. I heard this book on an audio book and loved the narrator, she made the story more interesting as she had a different voice for each character. I enjoyed the story thoroughly and might read it again. 4/5 *.

2. Totto-chan - Chihiro Iwasaki

I read this book because it has excellent reviews on Goodreads. The book is about number of alternative methods that would make up an extraordinary teaching model at schools. I see the schools/ daycares around me (in the US) are already applying these methods so I didn't find the book amusing or unusual, it had stuff that I already knew. Although I am recommending it to people who haven't heard about these alternate teaching methods.

3. Bidhar - Bhalchandra Nemade
If you read more reviews on Nemade's books (Kosla, Bidhar, Jhool etc.) you will see the same pattern there - people saying we didn't get what the writer is trying to say. I thought the same when I read Kosla, I thought there is a possibility that the books are written about mundane things and I am trying to find a higher meaning to it (it is a natural human tendency, we do the same with life and existence), but Nemade is a Padma Shree winner, so some meaning  to the story is reader's obvious expectation.
Nemade writes more like Rushdie, it is all about symbolism so it takes time to understand what he wants to say. I am happy to announce that I actually understood what Bidhar is all about :-) and I loved it. Here is my review -
Scene 1:
Me: (to an organizer O on a BMM convention committee) Why don't you invite Nemade for the convention this year?
O: nobody knows him
Me: how come? We should be proud, he is a padmashree winner after all.
O: Yes, but let's be honest how many people read Marathi?

Scene2:
S sent me first draft of her book to review
Me: We need these type of books in Marathi, why don't you publish this in Marathi?
S: There is no money there, who reads Marathi?

When I speak in Marathi with the younger generation they say "aunty can you please repeat that in English" so this generation is a step ahead (or behind, who knows!).

I know Maharashtrians who haven't read Batatyachi Chaal but had the energy time and patience to read the crappy series of Fifty shades of Grey.

Bidhar is a story of 4 Marathi writer friends who go at lengths to be able to publish in Marathi, failing to do so because let's be honest how many people read Marathi!

The book was written years ago but it is (more so) relevant today.

This review is written in English so that everyone can read it as I am sure it is true with all Indian regional languages, they are all beautiful even more than English is (if I may say so). I hope our languages do not die a slow death.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Vampires

Yes, this post is about the vampires. I am not talking about the sexy vampires called 'Cullens' from the movie 'Twilight' (however tempting it may be), I am here to talk about this mythical monster's real-life non-sexy counterpart - the emotional vampires. Odds are high that you have one of these demons lurking in the folds of your life. Emotional vampire is someone who zaps all your energy and makes you feel worse than you were feeling before.

There are many traits of vampires - narcissists, controllers, drama queens and victims.
I am going to talk about a vampire from my life today who entered my life a while ago. We started to hang out, created some amazing memories, slowly the vampire was comfortable with me and started sharing her fears, worries, stress, problems and confusions. I listened to her struggles in life and sympathized, empathized with her. At that point I did not realize how much negative impact it was causing me, I thought this is what friends do, they stand by when the other is facing problems.

She complained about studies, politics at work, family troubles, struggle finding a descent job, and then about the boy that she herself chose to marry after four years of courtship. I should have realized by now that vampires are going through perpetual problems as this is how they view life, even a paper cut is a big deal for them. They attract drama, create their own storms and cry when it rains.

And so it happened that she started having an extra marital affair. I kept telling her to not do that or at least separate from her husband first. She did none of that. Vampires seldom listen to advices or take actions on their mistakes.

My family and close friends asked me to disassociate with her saying someone who can have an extra marital affair have low morals and their conscious is dead. I wonder what happened to my standards, values and principles that I supported her throughout the affair (while her poor husband had no clue of what was going on), then her divorce and when the boy she was having an affair with ran away. In this phase I helped her find a job in Seattle in my company, helped her settle in this new place and made sure that I met her every other day so that she doesn't feel lonely and also looked for a match for her on dating sites (even though this was adding to my already existing stress levels).

It slowly hit me that the vampire was never happy even if good things happened to her. So if to cheer her up I said 'your mom received the most prestigious award in the country, you must be happy', to which the vampire said 'yes she did receive the award but she still has xyz problems'. The vampire never saw the bright side of life no matter how much one tried to divert her attention at it but at the same time she never failed to notice the good happening in others lives.

She would compare her mother's life with my mother. My mother is a housewife, she doesn't have to go through office politics and in turn is not rewarded with national awards either, she has her own share of problems that she is handling gracefully with a smile on her face. No need to mention that vampires always compare their own life with others and ask the question 'why me'.

She felt most other people have lives that are much easier than hers. One of the vampire's friend got a job in Google and her reaction was 'oh, she is the dumbest person I have come across, she absolutely did not deserve the job, she got it by luck'. 'Why?,' I asked 'people in Google grill in interviews, they are not stupid to lend her a job just like that'. Yet, she was stuck on her opinion.

Her constant lectures on 'luck' (which were many times taunted at me) made me annoyed one day I asked her 'In 12th you had 60%, did you deserve an admission in one of the best engineering colleges simply based on caste system reservations while so many with + 90% had to opt for low rated colleges? Or did you deserve admission for your MBA program which you got based on family ties? Everyone has some advantage in life and if you name it as luck then in that sense you have been lucky too'. She obviously disagreed and claimed that she deserved every bit of it because she has been through a lot in life! Victim consciousness defies logic.

I avoided telling her any good things happening with me, as that made her more sad and jealous. I stopped being myself around her. The vampires feed on your grief, loss or pain so for their lunchtime they want to talk about your worst phases, agony and sadness, once you vent they feel quenched. Misery loves company. Every interaction with her made me feel drained, negative and sad, may times even low self esteemed as I was taunted that I am simply lucky to have the good things.

To prove it to her that everyone goes through troubled times I kept telling her sad stories - derived from my life and others I have known. Once when she was going through her usual 'oh my life sucks' phase, to pacify her I started telling her a story from my life. I told her about my father - without going into details - he is going through one of the saddest thing that can happen to a person, when it happened my entire family was shattered, we went through shock and panic attacks, it has been 17 years and we still feel sad every single day about it and find it tough to deal with, unfortunately it has happened to the most beautiful soul we have ever known. When I told the vampire about my father - her reaction was 'at least your father is alive, mine is dead'.

 At this very instant I realized that the vampire has no empathy but just jealousy, comparison and disrespect for me. I started avoiding her and stopped sympathizing with her anymore. The vampire under any circumstances wants to prove that they are suffering more than anyone else in the world, they seek sympathy, attention. Saying that others are bad does not prove that you yourself are good, saying that others do not deserve things does not make you any worthy of them and downplaying other's pain does not prove that yours is bigger. She was going through problems because she created them for herself and dark is how she viewed life.

I must admit that it is extremely hard to cut the vampires out of your life completely, even though you know it is the wisest thing to do because you are so sucked into their world of worries that somehow you feel that you owe it to them, so we still were in touch and would meet once in a while.

It so happened that last year I was going through the lowest phases of my life, I was stuck in a black hole, the more I tried coming out of it the more it sucked me in.

During this time I met an old friend who went through 8 chemotherapies. I listened to her problems, shared mine. Though I wasn't going through a cancer treatment she didn't downplay my worries. "Shit happens and it is sad," she said "but fighting spirit comes naturally when you look at the many beautiful things that life has to offer, just enjoy every bit of the beauty". I could instantly relate, this is my attitude. Life is beautiful inspite of the problems. The sky, colors, relationships, nature, dancing, painting, reading, movies, creating, consuming, being able to live with two legs, two hands, functioning eyes and organs, still having hair on the head... everything is beautiful.

I realized that everyone around me and including me is going through minor-major issues, but no one is a drama queen filled with negativity, jealousy, comparison or the why me attitude.

Not to mention the vampire was nowhere around when I went through my troubles, vampires do not add any value to your life, it is always debit from your emotional bank and never credit. I of course came out of the black hole of my worries by taking actions on my mistakes, vowed never to repeat them again and by engaging in activities like meditation, dancing, reading and painting rather than complaining, gossiping and comparing.

A short while ago the vampire told me that she got married and bought a new house, I congratulated her and asked her why didn't she tell me about it when it happened, she said she has been busy with everything going on and then listed the number of problems that are keeping her busy. "You could have sent me a message" I said. To which she mentioned that we have nothing in common now, we are in different phases of life and have different lifestyles.

I wonder what took her so long to see the difference? We were always different, when I listened to her crib for hours or when she stayed with me until she found a place to live or when she was dating and breaking up - we always had different lifestyles, decision making patterns, attitudes, aptitudes, interests, energy, belief system and outlook towards life.

The vampire stops being around you when you say 'buck up you sissy' and deny to be their crutch, they simply find new crutches who support them better. As they say - a friend in need is a friend indeed, for the vampires they are always in need. Finally, she was out of my life entirely, I felt used at the end, it is a sad feeling but there are no regrets only lessons. I have no one to blame but me for the distress the vampire caused me, no one had put me in a prison and made me listen to her.
But at the same time I feel extremely relieved as I don't have to be around this toxic person anymore, even as a formality.

Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, jealousy, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, vampires drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs, I know it is hard to do that if they are your family members, colleagues or childhood friends. Vampires are affecting your physical, mental, emotional well-being in more ways than you understand. All I have to say is let go of the people who dull your shine, poison your spirit and bring you drama. Simply cancel your subscription to their issues.
I stumbled upon an article on emotional vampires the other day and it dawned on me that it is not just me who has been a prey to their blood-sucking nature, there is a huge research on this personality type. I wish I had read the article long ago, that would have saved me energy, time, emotion and undue stress.

Here is the link - https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/14/how-to-avoid-being-drained-by-energy-vampires/   --- don't miss the 'Vampire assessment' section.


And here is a good book on the topic - Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry.