A cup of tea

I love short stories and it is my preferred form of fiction. So, its not surprising that the very first post I wrote for “The Sunday Book Club’s Blog” in July 2013 was on short stories. Actually, it was on one short story and one of my favourites, in particular. I reproduce that post here with some minor modifications.

A Cup of Tea by Katherine Mansfield was first published in 1992, and it remains one of Mansfield’s best known stories today. The plot is fairly simple:

It is a cold and wet day in London. After a visit to the shops, Rosemary Fell is about to get into her chauffeur-driven car, when she is approached by a penniless young girl, Miss Smith, for money that would buy her a cup of tea.

‘… It’s a cup of tea I want, madam.’ And she burst into tears.

Rosemary is intrigued as she cannot believe that a person cannot have money to buy a cup of tea. Inspired to do more — she persuades the young Ms. Smith to come home with her  — she visualises transforming the poor girl’s life, and becoming the talk of the high society she moves in. When she reaches home, Philip, Rosemary’s husband, is surprised to see Ms. Smith and also hear about Rosemary’s plans for the girl’s future. He leaves Rosemary and Ms. Smith, but not before mentioning to Rosemary that the girl was

‘…so astonishingly pretty.’

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A book lover’s Narnia

The Guest Post Series on “My Favourite Thingshas contributions by those sharing my interests in travel, books, photography, music, and on issues that I am passionate about. Though the guest posts are not always by fellow bloggers, the guest authors are always those who have interesting experiences to share.

Today’s guest author is Deepa of Deepa’s Kaleidoscope. An engineer by training, but a writer at heart, Deepa writes fiction and on social issues with equal parts passion and reflection, which results in a unique perspective on a particular topic. Currently based in Melbourne, this guest post is a result of her exploration into the bewitching world of the many bookstores in the city. An exploration that has just begun and one, I suspect, is a never-ending one. :-)

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so they say. This morning, I found a sweet little image that said, ‘The way to a woman’s heart is through a bookstore’. And if you’re here reading this blog post in the middle of your workday, night or while on the road, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, the saying probably applies to you too!

Melbourne, where I am currently based, is well-known for its Arts Precinct, a part of which also includes the Literary Arts. And when we think of literary festivals and fundraisers, how can books be far behind? Walking through the streets of Melbourne, you would be pleasantly surprised at how you encounter a bookstore every 2–3 blocks. Some of them are the typical run-of-the-mill kinds boasting of sales and specials, some are steeped in history and every one of them has a story behind it!

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The Sunday Book Club

 

Do you like Sundays? I do. In fact, I love Sundays as I can laze around, have a traditional South Indian lunch, chat with friends and family over the phone, read books or surf for books to beg, borrow or steal buy. It is generally a day for relaxing and recharging for the week to come.

Starting 30th September 2012, my Sundays are going to change, and I am very excited and happy and nervous about this. You see, I have agreed to be part of a new venture, and that too as a co-founder, no less ! Co-founder of The Sunday Book Club. Raghav (@raghavmodi), the founder of the very successful Movie Talk on Sunday (#MTOS), contacted Rahul (@meetneo) and me about 10 days back. And after a flurry of emails, DMs, and tweets, we found ourselves co-founders of The Sunday Book Club (#TSBC). :-)

The Sunday Book Club on Twitter (#TSBC) is an initiative to get the Twitter Community together at a particular time and day each week to discuss various book-related topics. The aim of the whole exercise, besides having fun, is to find like-minded individuals who share the same passion for books as you do and in the process discover different books, authors, and genres that the bookworm in you might fancy.

In other words, it is the perfect opportunity for you to know about new books, interesting facts, and even participate in competitions and interact with special guests. The #TSBC events will take place from 15:00-16:00 Indian Standard Time every Sunday beginning 30th September. For more details on #TSBC, please visit my page on The Sunday Book Club. 

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My Kindle story

Phew ! I’ve done it. Finally.

After 3 years of tip-toeing around the idea, researching about it, bugging friends and acquaintances on their opinion of it, reading a considerable amount of reviews on its pros and cons, flip-flopping over actually taking the plunge, I did it.

I went and bought myself a Kindle, and I can’t tell you how relieved I feel right now. I know that “relieved” is a rather odd choice of an adjective here, but if you were to know me well, you would be relieved too. Relieved that I finally bought one ! The thing is while I am a confident shopper of books, paintings, artifacts, clothes, shoes, vegetables, fruits, other groceries, etc. (and strictly in this order), it is a completely different story when I have to shop for electronic items. I turn into this palpitating, blubbering, confused and an extremely diffident person when confronted with an imminent purchase of an electronic item. It’s not like I’m technologically challenged or suffer from technophobia, but when I am spoiled for choice with regard to electronic stuff, I go a little crazy. OK, a lot crazy with confusion. That’s what happened with the Kindle.

My Kindle story begins some 3 years back, when I saw one in a crowded Tube at London. The Kindle’s owner was completely oblivious to the crush of the crowd around her and was fully absorbed in reading from her Kindle. Even today, after so many years, I cannot forget that look of concentration on her face or my first sight of a Kindle. Or the fact that she had a stack of books balanced on her lap as well.

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I, Rama or Ayyo, Rama !

I, Rama: Age of Seers by Ravi Venu (Cratus Media, pp. 264, Rs.225) is the first book in the “I, Rama Series”. The series is a retelling of the Ramayana from Rama’s point of view.

This is His tale… let Him share His story with you…His account of the Legend. This is the story of that mighty king through His eyes, but my hand. (p.17)

I, Rama is narrated as a flashback to Rama’s twin sons Lava and Kusa, his brothers Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan, and his foremost devotee, Hanuman. It is not a simple straightforward flashback as there are tales within tales and flashbacks within flashbacks. So, even if it is Rama, who is narrating the tale, he narrates it through another’s voice. This volume takes the readers through the origins of the Ishvaku clan, the reign of Dashrath, the birth of Rama and his brothers, Rama and Lakshman’s sojourn to the Dandaka forest with Vishwamitra, Sita’s swayamvar and her ensuing marriage with Rama, and his encounter with Parasurama. The book ends with Rama, Sita and Lakshman being exiled from Ayodhya.

This is what I, Rama narrates, a story that anyone who has read the Ramayana will be familiar with, including me.

Now, how do I write a review of a book that is yet another retelling of the beloved Hindu legend, the Ramayana?

How do I write a review of a book that is part science fiction, part fantasy, part mythology and ends up being an uncooked khichdi of genres?

How do I write a review of a book with that is woven around a unique premise, but is written very badly?

How do I write a review of a book that was much-anticipated, but which failed to deliver?

How do I write a review of a book whose language is so archaic that it made me cringe?

How do I write a review of a book called I, Rama, but one that made me go “Ayyo, Rama”?

How do I write a review of a book that I struggled to complete and then did not want to review it?

I, therefore, decided not to write a usual review. What I have written is this…

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Let’s have some humour, please

The Guest Post Series onMy Favourite Thingshas contributions by those sharing my interests in travel, books, music, and on issues that I am passionate about. These posts are not always by fellow bloggers, and the guest authors are always those who have interesting experiences to share.

Today’s guest post is by Srinayan, the infrequent blogger of The Random Walkaround. An engineer by profession, he took up blogging a little over a year ago and writes on many topics, but always with sensitive insight and understated humour. Srinayan, however, prefers to be known as a lethargic blogger who is long on intent, but somehow falls short on delivery. That is probably why I have given up on waiting for an original guest post from him and, instead, am re-posting one of his old posts. A post that I liked very much, and a post that is quite relevant for our times.

We are living in a terrible world and doomsday is just around the corner; or so we are led to believe by television, newspapers, the internet and all other oracles of wisdom. Nothing seems to going to right for humanity—Greece, the Euro crisis, Wall Street, US debt, climate change, rogue states, etc. Closer home we have inflation, falling stock markets, the Lokpal Bill, 2G and scams of every kind and size. The list is ever growing; you only have to add your pet angst to it.

Whatever happened to that wonderful therapeutic called humour? I don’t mean the stand up comic type which is in vogue today; rather, the sly poke in the ribs that reminds us that, even if all is not well with the world, we are doing fine and having a good laugh about it.

Welcome to The Little World of Don Camillo.

In the context of its time, post-World War II Europe was just as insecure and dangerous as the world is today. While the common folk grappled with economic hardship, their political leadership was preoccupied with ideological realignments or preventing them. As a farcical consequence, depending on your leanings, all problems owed their roots to communism or opposition to it. Black couldn’t get blacker and white, whiter.

The absurdity of the situation was too much for an Italian called Giovanni Guareschi. He reacted by creating two characters, a priest named Don Camillo and his communist adversary, Peppone, in a village in the Po river valley in Northern Italy. The battle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie was truly joined and the several comic confrontation between the two reflected the pointlessness of the discourse of the time.

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