Knowledge Whiteboard Library

Ever so often I come across an initiative, an organisation, a person or a group of people, a book, a film, an article, a piece of music… that leaves me feeling enthused. Since it also leaves me wondering why I haven’t heard of it before, I set off on an eager and happy quest to find out more about it. When such an initiative is that of a friend, it leaves me a little shocked. Pleasantly and happily shocked, I must hasten to clarify, as it happened when I heard of the Knowledge Whiteboard Library. Let me elaborate.

It all began with a telephone conversation a couple of months back with Rajshri Mahtani, founder of Knowledge Whiteboard (KW), and also a friend and a former colleague. Somewhere during our conversation Rajshri casually mentioned something about a library at the KW and the growing collection of books. I was intrigued and was left thinking… library? What library? How come I don’t know anything about it?

I decided to visit the KW office, which is located Santacruz in Mumbai and find out more about the library for myself. Sometime last month that is just what I did and sure enough, there was an interesting story waiting for me. :)

Knowledge Whiteboard Library

Dr. Rajshri Mahtani

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Book Review: Sirens Spell Danger

Self-published books are not my choice of reading material. In fact, I would prefer not to read them at all as my experience of reading such books has not been a very happy one. I know it sounds like a sweeping statement, not to mention prejudiced, but…

Now consider this scenario. A fellow blogger and a friend, Suresh Chandrasekaran, whose writing I admire and like very much, comes out with a self-published book. This leads to a dilemma or what can even be called a “situation”: I really want to read the book, but the self-published tag is a big deterrent of sorts. While I am mulling over this, Suresh (who I think is aware of my views on self-published books) requests for my feedback on the book. I agree, buy the book, read it and one afternoon over a long FB chat give him feedback on the book. This happened about 6 months back.

Sirens Spell Danger, ebook, Suresh C

Recently, I participated in an excellent discussion on “Self-Published Books” (do click on the link to read more about the discussion) at The Sunday Book Club (TSBC). It was an enlightening discussion and one that spurred me to to convert the feedback I gave Suresh on the book, Sirens Spell Danger, into a full-fledged book review.

Sirens Spell Danger (2013, Amazon eBook) is a collection of three longish short stories edited by Suresh. As the title suggests, all the stories in the book have women or “sirens’ as the pivot.

The sirens are not necessarily the protagonists of the stories; instead, they are characters without whom there would have been no story in the first place.

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Book Review: Silent Cinema in India

Watson Hotel, Historic Hotel, Mumbai

Watson’s Hotel / Esplanade Mansion

In the busy Kala Ghoda area of South Mumbai is a run down, decrepit building called Esplanade Mansion. Once upon a time, it was known as Watson’s Hotel and is India’s oldest surviving cast-iron building today. Fabricated in England and assembled on site between 1867–1869, Watson’s has quite a bit of a history attached to it.

There are many stories about Watson’s, but the one I’m going to share here is in the context of the book being reviewed here — Silent Cinema in India: A Pictorial Journey (Harper Collins, 2012, Price: Rs.4,999/-) by B.D. Garga. It was at Watson’s Hotel that the Lumeire Brothers’ Cinematographie was screened on July 7, 1896, to an all-white audience for an admission fee of one rupee.

“Cinema arrived in India like an itinerant traveller, unannounced” (pg.15).

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Govinda: Book 1 of The Aryavarta Chronicles

A couple of pages into the “Author’s Note” in Book 1 of the The Aryavarta Chronicles: Govinda (2012, Hachette India) by Krishna Udayasankar, I came across these lines:

We are the stories we tell. The Aryavarta Chronicles are neither reinterpretation nor retelling. These stories are a construction of reality based on a completely different set of assumptions… I am simply one of those innumerable bards who passes the story on, contexualized and rationalized but not lacking in sincerity or integrity. It is you, the reader, who shall infuse it with meaning and bring it to life as you will. (pg. vii)

Govinda, Aryavarta Chronicles, HachetteHa ! That’s what nearly every author of mythological fiction claims, I grumbled to myself as I settled down to read Govinda.

458 pages later, when I closed the book shut, I was no longer grumbling. Instead, I was keenly aware that I had just finished reading a book that had turned out exactly as Udayasankar claimed, particularly the last sentence.

Govinda was no “old wine in new bottle”, as I had initially feared, but a completely fresh perspective on the most timeless of all epics — the Mahabharata. It was a perspective that delighted me, challenged me and, more importantly, made me think.

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When I met a book cover

The best part of travel is the unexpectedness. No matter how much researches or reading one does in advance about a place, there is always something unanticipated to surprise the traveller. I always delight in these unanticipated surprises that get thrown my way and sometimes these surprises are so unexpected that it is difficult to even describe the feeling. Something like this happened when I visited the City Palace of Udaipur earlier this year.

But I’m getting a little ahead of the story, so first a little background.

Color by victoria finlay

About a year back I read a book that I can safely say enriched my life-like no other. It was Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay, which traces the history of how natural dyes, paints and colours were made for a European artist’s paintbox. The book is full of stories, anecdotes, histories and adventures inspired by the human quest for colour. (I highly recommend that you can read my review of the book here.)

To say that I liked the book is an understatement and I have lost count of the number of times I have read it. However clichéd it sounds,  Color… opened up a deliciously new world before me and one that I continue to explore every single day in art, but also in textiles, interior design, music, porcelain, and craft. For me, Colour… was as perfect as a book could get for me.

The beautiful book cover, which depicted a stained glass window with panes of different coloured glasses, was an apt choice for the book. But the book gave no details as to where the window was, and even though it looked Indian, I knew that this window could be anywhere.

When I entered the City Palace of Udaipur that February morning, I was looking forward to seeing the Maharana Pratap artefacts, the Mor Chowk, miniature paintings, some wonderful views across Lake Pichola… I had an audio guide with me which gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the Palace at my pace. When I reached the Amar Vilas,  a large breezy courtyard on the 4th or 5th storey of the City Palace, nearly 2 hours later, I decided to take a break and sit for a while on one of the many benches laid out there. As I looked around, I saw the multi-coloured shimmer of a large stained glass window across the courtyard.

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Business Sutra: A very Indian approach to Management

Business Sutra, Devdutt Pattanaik, Aleph Book CompanyWhen Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management (2013, Aleph Book Company, pp. 438, Hardbound, Rs.695/-) was offered for review, I went through a dilemma of epic proportions. Authored by Devdutt Pattanaik, whose books and articles on Indian mythology I have read and enjoyed over the years, the book title had the dreaded word “management”.

Now, management books and I don’t see eye to eye, so much so that I completely ignore the management section in bookstores and pretend like they don’t exist. I’ve tried to read books recommended by friends and have found myself yawning with boredom or scratching my head at the drivel written. Management books are also probably the only reason why I don’t have a management degree ! On the other hand, I am a mythology buff and will do anything to get my hands on a book from this genre.

I’m sure you can appreciate the dilemma that I went through over deciding on whether to read the Business Sutra or not. I didn’t bite my nails or have hysterics. Just allowed my head (management) and my heart (mythology) to battle it out.

And the winner was… I got a copy of the book to read and review. :-)

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