Sunday, August 31, 2014

Books 10+10

As the Facebook fads go, mostly useless social bandwagon type, I really have little respect for the fads or the faddists. But there is one, which, I felt, is worthwhile (and a little beyond) for obvious reasons - it talks about the books! So three of my Facebook friends (Bishakha Majumdar, Saroj Pani, and Amit Virmani) asked me to list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way. Now, since Vivek Kaul, another friend, had listed 10 poor books he had been through, I thought why not make two lists of 10 + 10, the good ones that stayed with me and the bad ones too that stayed with me.

And whence I made the lists, I wanted to enlist the reasons also, which made the Facebook post so longish (and also, I'd lose it soon in the myriad pile of posts), so I decided to post it on my blog. And also, I was a bit afraid because people think I am well-read and despite liking their perception, I don't agree with that. Anyhow, here it goes:

The 10 good books that have stayed with me in some ways:

  1. Shrimad Bhagvat Geeta - I read it in the worst phase of my life and the depth expressed with such simplicity gave me a new kind of philosophical insight towards calmness.
  2. The Outsider - Albert Camus (Original French: L'Étranger) Another one that I read in the same phase and the deep commitment of Meursault affected me deeply, besides attracting to many more works of Camus.
  3. Preeti Katha - Narendra Kohli A casual short-novel for the uninitiated, a book of philosophy for the seekers. Two long-lost classmates meet after 20 or so years, spend a day together, and part ways. The novel is their conversations, quirky discussions, and nostalgia.
  4. Godan - Prem Chand I had read almost all of Prem Chand's stories in Mansarovar collections and was mighty impressed. However, reading Godan in high school days was a shock to my urban sensibilities. In a sense, Godan was my first window to the rural India and differences in concerns.
  5. Smokes and Mirrors - Pallavi Aiyar An Indian in China, teaching English and reporting for two premier newspapers, observing and comparing the two nations on so many facets in so many academic, non-academic ways! This was the book that initiated my interest in China.
  6. The Ascent of Money - Niall Ferguson A Harvard Professor tracing the evolution of money and monetary systems across the western world. Initiated my interest in economic history. I'd have loved it more if India, China, and West Asia were given due thought.
  7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams If sarcastic, absurd, and improbable can be so binding and beautiful!
  8. Ujaale Apni Yaadon Ke - Bashir Badr The first book of ghazal, from which I learnt the ghazals and the discipline of Urdu poetry.
  9. Diwan-e-Ghalib - Ali Sardar Jafri (ed.) The poetry of Ghalib, with contextual explanations and meaning by Ali Sardar Jafri, the great flag-bearer of Urdu research in indpendent India. This was where I got initiated in Urdu.
  10. Sharat Samagr - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay The collected volumes of Sharat Chandra's work, translated from Bangla to Hindi. I've read them and re-read them so many times - Devdas, Grihdaah, Charitr_heen, Majhli DIdi, Baikuntha Ka Daanpatr, Shrikaant, and so on. If I understand human psyche a bit and respect women, a major share of that credit goes to Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. 

There are many more, by Prem Chand, Shivani, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Shivaji Sawant, Rahi Masoom Raza, Acharya Chatursen, Asrar-ul-Haque Majaz, Gulzar, Ernest Hemingway, Bill Watterson, Bill Bryson, Anupam Sinha, Gopal Godse, Michel Danino, and so on...!

The 10 poor books that have stayed with me in some ways:

  1. The Alchemist - Paulo Cohelo A story that has been repeated umpteen number of times from Panchtantr to Chandamama, devoid of any moral or intelligence value, runs a story of 6 pages to 180 pages, and repeats every useless word about 18 times over in different ways. The only good thing is it was full of quotable quotes, which is again pointless due to sheer pain the process inflicts.
  2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki Started reading, read some 60 pages, realised that it is repetitive with promise of a life-changing idea at the end, closed the book, never to pick up again. The essence of the book is this - invest in a portfolio with robust profile. Why do you require 400 pages for that - because nobody will pay for expressing in 10 pages what first textbook of finance explains.
  3. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Robin Sharma Read 80 pages in a single shot, never picked up again, regretted reading even that much. It may be a good book for Americans, born in the middle of brazen consumerism and materialism, trying to find some solace in simplicity. Poor choice for Indians, at least till my generation. 
  4. Lajja - Tasleema Nasrin Finished the whole book to understand reasons of banning and burning. The book is unnecessarily dense and dark. It could have been a lot better, if one can delete some 100 pages out of 150 or so. 
  5. Kufr - Tahmeena Durrani Nauseating, full of gore, unsettling, and most of all, exaggerated for that effect.
  6. Awara Maseeha - Vishnu Prabhakar A biography of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, a landmark book in Hindi literature, and yet, so apologetic and justifying on behalf of Sharat Chandra. Trying to force a messiah image on the author, who never claimed it for himself. 
  7. My Experiments with Truth - Mohandas Gandhi A poor and weak account of author's mistakes, justifications, and explanations. The book just reveals the frailty of his character and intolerance to criticism, so much so that he has to issue a detailed account of justifications. 
  8. India After Gandhi - Ramchandra Guha Collect newspaper snippets, put them in order, insert your biases, and call that history. Such a poor, biased, and apologetic record of post-independence India, where brazen biases of the author ooze out.
  9. Connect The Dots - Rashmi Bansal How long can you keep stealing Steve Jobs phrases and juxtapose them with weak stories and poor language!
  10. The Seventh Secret - Irving Wallace Hitler survived the WWII and spent his days in peace in Latin America, had children, and even conspired over generations. Excellent construction of a pathetic idea.
There are a few more, mainly by so-called historians, best-selling authors, and self-proclaimed philosophers but well, let that be!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

जीवन देता निशा निमंत्रण

हरिवंश राय बच्चन भले ही मधुशाला के लिए प्रसिद्ध हों, मेरे अंतर तक जो पहुंची है, वो है सतरंगिनी या फिर निशा निमंत्रण. और कुछ दिन ऐसे होते हैं कि जब निशा निमंत्रण पढ़ने के अलावा कुछ और नहीं किया जा सकता. कुछ पंक्तियाँ हैं जो गाहे-बगाहे अच्छे बुरे समय याद आ जाती हैं:

हँस रहा संसार खग पर,
कह रहा जो आह भर भर--
’लुट गए मेरे सलोने नीड़ के तॄण पात।’ साथी!
प्रबल झंझावात, साथी!
गंध-भरा यह मंद पवन था,
लहराता इससे मधुवन था,
सहसा इसका टूट गया जो स्‍वप्‍न महान, समझ पाओगे?
तुम तूफ़ान समझ पाओगे?
जानता यह भी नहीं मन--
कौन मेरी थाम गर्दन,
है विवश करता कि कह दूँ, व्यर्थ जीवन भी, मरण भी!
स्वप्न भी छल, जागरण भी!
आज मुझसे बोल, बादल!
तम भरा तू, तम भरा मैं,
गम भरा तू, गम भरा मैं,
आज तू अपने हृदय से हृदय मेरा तोल, बादल!
आज मुझसे बोल, बादल!
सत्य मिटा, सपना भी टूटा,
संगिन छूटी, संगी छूटा,
कौन शेष रह गई आपदा जो तू मुझ पर लानेवाली?
रो, अशकुन बतलाने वाली!
जीवन का क्या भेद बताऊँ,
जगती का क्या मर्म जताऊँ,
किसी तरह रो-गाकर मैंने अपने मन को बहलाया है!
मैंने दुर्दिन में गाया है!
प्यार पूजा थी उसीकी,
है उपेक्षा भी उसी की,
क्या कठिन सहना घृणा का, भार पूजा का सहा था!
देवता उसने कहा था!
जब नयनों में सूनापन था,
जर्जर तन था, जर्जर मन था,
तब तुम ही अवलम्ब हुए थे मेरे एकाकी जीवन के!
जाओ कल्पित साथी मन के!
बात पिछली भूल जाओ,
दूसरी नगरी बसाओ’—
प्रेमियों के प्रति रही है, हाय, कितनी क्रूर दुनिया!
आज मुझसे दूर दुनिया!
दुख सब जीवन के विस्मृत कर,
तेरे वक्षस्थल पर सिर धर,
तेरी गोदी में चिड़िया के बच्चे-सा छिपकर सोया था!
मैं कल रात नहीं रोया था!
इसे कहूँ कर्तव्य-सुघरता
या विरक्ति, या केवल जड़ता,
भिन्न सुखों से, भिन्न दुखों से, होता है जीवन का रुख भी!
साथी साथ ना देगा दु:ख भी!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

इतना सब कुछ जिया है अब तक, कितना जीना बाकी है

Few days back, I got an invitation to be a quizmaster in an event. Despite my utmost willingness and deep craving for taking up the job, I was so hard-pressed for time that I had to refuse. And despite my refusal, I kept on making rounds and questions and cryptic clues in my head for next two days. Anyhow, that chapter is closed now and I am not very sad about it, for I have already played the role of quizmaster at many occasions to my satisfaction.

But that set the ball of thoughts rolling - what are those roles and tasks and works and things and activities still desired and unfulfilled? The list of "done" and "never-wish-to-do" are rather longish. The "done" list would seem like boasting and the "never-wish-to-do" would seem like escaping. So here is a small list of "yet-to-be-done kind" ~

I want to perform on stage - something small. I know I do not have the stage talent but hey, lack of talent never stopped me from the stages of poetry and singing so why to hold back now! I wish to study a lots and lots of maths, physics, economics, history, psychology, and sociology. I wish to join politics and make policies for the nation some day - bring a positive change to the world. Also, there are few particular places that I wish to visit and hoping to cover some of those this winters. And there is one place I wish not to visit! It is difficult not to visit that place but well, hopefully, I'll do that too!


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