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Wednesday 26 October 2016

How I Became A Fan Of Used Books ... Slowly And Then All At Once

I had been quite 'literally' brought up with the principle of only using/buying/reading new books. You know, the unused ones, with new ones, the ones that exude the crisp aroma of fresh publication. The unstained. Freshly bound. Pristine. Perfect.

My sister and mom just told me not to look at used/second-hand books and that was that. It was never really reasoned out. Until, it finally was. I realised there was little to no sense in this rejection of second hand books. And there hardly seemed any probable logic.

Besides, who am I kidding? The old, rusty books are cheaper than new ones and as a college student, when you are perennially broke, and have an insatiable urge to read, you explore all possible avenues. So it hardly comes across as a surprise that I finally resorted to second-hand books. But resorting is one thing, I fell in love with used books. And to know the why and how of this love, you'll need to read up my tryst with these treasure troves over the years.

It all began with a library clearance sale in the opposite part of the city, and I was getting Ghosh and Lahiri and Coelho for as low as 50 rupees. It was dramatic, all right! I had braved a commute of 2 hours and the muddy terrain (yes, to add to the flair of dramatic, it was raining). and here I was. Torn between a handsome deal for books that had long been on my TBR, and my sister's inexplicable dismissal of used books. 

I took a call, of which I am proud, and would be gladly narrating 4 years from that moment. 
I will admit it started with sneakily importing the yellowed book into my shelf. 

There was no going back from there. I went to various book sales and sneaked in the discolored, even auburn-ed copies of some real treasures of books. What marked an important juncture in the transition from my practical acceptance of used books to my unalloyed love for them was this: I opened this old hardbound copy of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. And there was a name scribbled in childish handwriting, crooked at the edges, as if the child had picked up a pen for the first time. Or maybe one of the siblings had a fight and in order to mark the book as his own, the kid who went by the name of Alex, established his ownership in ink. Maybe, the book scared him and so he couldn't hold the pen without shivering. Who knows? 

But the point is, there are so many possibilities, so many conjectures, and to think of the stories that these books have witnessed, somehow adds to the charm. To think that someone cried on the same pages that now have our tears, to see the same page has been dog-eared where our favorite part of the book lies. 
Since then, I have come across so, SO many used-books. With notes, with thank-you's, with apologies, with inter-generational exchanges. It warms my heart so much. 
And with that magic, I ganged up with the used books. I bought them at every available opportunity, because, well, if I love them, why friend-zone them?
A latest edition may give me crisp pages for the story, but the used editions give me crisp stories for the pages. (Yes, multiple!)

Before you leave, let me add: this also speaks to me on a deeper level: for one, it made me realise how futile our obsession with perfection is. No one wants a termite-infested book, but just a used book does not harm. And then there are stories, as many as you make up, about the person who was the owner prior to you and what the book did to them, meant for them. But most of all, that you know you are holding more than just bound printed pages in your hand. 

There are always lessons hidden in the little, seemingly innocuous events of life, aren't they?

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Friday 21 October 2016

An Ode To The Name Of This Blog... And To Friendship

A friend recently sent me a pendant (Image below) that has the name of this very blog on it. She moved on to a different continent earlier this year, and what has ensued is what always ensues: we are unable to synchronise Skype calls, there's hardly any regularity to when we catch up on each others' lives, and we are making friends without each other. To add spice to the situation, we are growing up. But, I digress. Coming back to the pendant. The gift was sure, shipped from another continent, and all, but this was among the thoughtful gifts. You know, when real effort goes into gifting something to someone the meaning of which only a few people can totally comprehend? The kind of thoughtfulness that makes the gift sacred. 

Dear friend, it doesn't remind me of you, it doesn't smell of you either. Heck, we haven't even lived any of our memories with it. But it is still sacred, because it somehow magically managed to traverse its material meaning, and slipped into my heart. Slipped inside enough to make me get back to poetry after 4 years. Need I say, thank you?

Sometimes, You Hold On...

There's a thin line, an important one
The difference 
Between moving away and drifting apart

There are no full stops,
Not really anyway.
Because, life ends in a comma

With unfinished business
And words unsaid, and gifts slated to be delivered
In the middle of a sentence, just like tha

With an 'almost'
And a blurred vision
Of what could be, in an alternate universe

And so we count upon 
The difference
Between moving away and drifting apart

Geographies will define the former,
We will just be silent spectators,
But we will always make the two minutes' skype call
Worth all the postponement, and scheduling

Yes, it will hurt.
It will suck to admit what we know deep down
The eventuality of the numbing distance

And we will hope, secretly
To wither away together, in that hilly cottage
We talked about, I hope you remember?

Against all odds, that once again
Our paths will cross, and
we will make new memories

No, I don't think we can relive the ones from the past
because that's what they are:

And in the meantime,
gestures are all we have
To stain each other with laughter
The kind reminiscent of our clumsiness
(mostly your clumsiness, though)

And this pendant will not just be a necklace
It will always be more:
A reminder. A token. A keepsake

No, it wouldn't go with that dress
or wouldn't seem right to be worn at
That conference

But I will hold on to it, tight
Like my life depends on it
Because it does

Do you hear? I will wear it on my sleeve
Because when all is said and done,
this is the nearest I have to your spirit,
And to the frolic of our compatibility and love.

The miles are tangible, the distance isn't
It just is an intangible demon conspiring to drift us apart,
supported by the vagaries of time.

But with this tied to me, we wouldn't let it. 

There's a difference 
Between moving away and drifting apart

And we shall always try to hold on to that difference.
That's the noble thing to do. 

PS: There has been a spelling error. It has been intentional. those who get the meaning, will get the meaning!

Saturday 1 October 2016

Book Review: She Walks, She Leads by Gunjan Jain

About the Book : “She Walks, She Leads”

The book is an authorized anthology of India’s most dynamic women leaders, it profiles life stories of 24 prolific women at the acme of their careers. The book features Nita Ambani, Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Mira Nair, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Mary Kom, Sania Mirza, Rajshree Birla, Shobhana Bhartiya, Chanda Kochhar, Anamika Khanna amongst others.
She Walks, She Leads has received an overwhelming response from some of the tallest names in the country.
Mr. Shahrukh Khan , Mrs. Nita Ambani, Mr. Deepak Parekh released the  book on 21st July 2016 at a gathering in Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai and in attendance were who’s who of India Inc.
From industry giants to social leaders, the most respected voices in India have given the book their note of confidence and trust and you can see these endorsements on our Facebook page  and endorsement section of the website
More than 130 leading personalities of India from a wide-range of professions have lent their voices on the 24 women featured in She Walks, She Leads that provide rare insights into the life of the protagonists and considerably enrich their stories.

About the author

With an academic record spread across five countries and three continents, Gunjan has been privileged to have had several worlds open up before her fairly early. She is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Economics and Finance, U.S.A. and has earned her Masters in Wealth Management from Cass Business School, City University, U.K. Gunjan is currently enrolled in a General Management programme from Harvard Business School, Harvard University, U.S.A .Gunjan holds a diploma in Image Management from the London Image Institute as well as the Academy of Image Mastery in Singapore. She has received a diploma on International Etiquette and Protocol from the Institut Villa Pierrefeu in Switzerland, and a Masters Practitioners degree in Neuro-linguistic Programming from the Society of NLP in USA – making her one among very few Indians to receive such accreditation. More about Gunjan’s bio is available  here

Find the author here: 

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My Review:

Holding the huge book in one's hand, one can easily imagine why the book is amassing the praise that it is. Chronicling and bringing together stories of 24 influential and inspirational women personalities from different walk of life, the effort that has gone in the book is fairly evident.
It has been a very well-thought, well-put and well-executed assignment of a book, which is admirable because such a fine work from beginning till the end is so rare. The format basically goes like this: the writer's account of her meeting with them, putting together the work they did and the struggles, followed by an interview of someone close to her. In this context, Gunjan Jain has coupled up as a biographer and as an interviewer, and that brings two different dimensions to what we read. And who doesn't like learning about the multiple layers that characterise every person?

And then, there are the unassuming lessons hidden within the stories, which as an ingredient, single-handedly add to the charm of reading the book. "Never start anything with diffidence, always start with confidence. And when you are successful you must give back to society"
The biographies are varied, in that different people belong to different generations and hence have had distinct struggles, which means as a reader, one finds a part more relatable than the others, but it works fine as long as there are takeaways like these lessons.

The best part about the book however, is this: it is a warm reminder for us to see beyond the glitter and attraction of success. It forces one to think about the journey behind the achievements.
Successful women from different walks of life have shared their stories, up-close and personal.
I especially liked reading the sketches which emanated a personal touch, like Shabana Azmi's. The family/friend/confidante of the women telling more about them is also heart-warming at times, despite being too repeatedly positive.

The catch here is that it is written in a journalistic tone, sort of like the cover story of a feature magazine, and considering there are 24 such accounts, it is tricky to read in one go. You will need to make an effort to read perhaps one sketch each day. But it will be worth the while because the accounts are colorful and vivid, touching carefully the fragile struggles and the eventual success.

Get the book here:

Source of the review copy: Book Received from the author, in exchange of an honest review

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Kritika's bookshelf: read

Angels & Demons
The Story of My Life
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
A Tale of Two Cities
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Sense and Sensibility
A Christmas Carol
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Time Machine
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Da Vinci Code

Kritika Narula's favorite books »


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