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 can find that post at - Privacy Please
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
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:

Do not inculcate bullying behavior at home, if you see your children into things like name calling , controlling, teasing, excluding a person from the group without reason, betraying a good friend, comparing/ defining and making women do things based on gender roles or belittling people then stop them right away. And obviously parents have to lead by example, if parents themselves are into bullying then it will by default get instilled in kids.

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.
Other related posts - w o r d s -

Monday, May 15, 2017


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 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?

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.