Daily Archives: May 22, 2012

On Lending Books

So I have made a decision after weighing all the pros and cons, after giving it too much thought, after being aware that I might lose some friends and yet the decision has been made: I shall not lend books anymore. Why? Because people who borrow books must learn how to return them after reading, which sadly enough they don’t. I do not think I have it in me to lend my precious ones again to anyone.

I am done with people who borrow books and do not return them. I am done with the likes of those as well who borrow and return the book not in the condition that you lent it to begin with. Why do people do this? I will never know. I once had this friend (point to be noted that he is being referred to in the past tense) whose name is SaiVijay. I met him in Hyderabad and made the mistake of lending him my precious books one of which was a personally signed book by an author whose name I forget. The point being: He never bothered to return my books. I was livid. I cut all ties.

Another one of these in the line was an ex-trainee from IBM Daksh whose name I shall not mention here, who had the gall to borrow almost a dozen of my books and yes you are right. She did not return them. I hounded her. I chased her. Without avail. There are no two ways about this one: Books are not meant to be lent. I lent books at one time thinking that everyone had the right to read and may be it would be great if I was the catalyst. Yes everyone does have the right to read, however one should not forget to return books. That is fair and sqaure. I have learnt my lessons. Two friends (or rather acquaintances) were enough to make me realize. Never again.

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Book Review: The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prize Winning Essays: Edited by Tara L. Masih

Title: The Chalk Circle: Intellectual Prize Winning Essays
Editor: Tara L. Masih
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
ISBN: 978-1936214716
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Pages: 224
Source:Author
Rating: 5/5

I never thought I would enjoy a collection of essays that much. I had read Tara’s collection of short stories earlier and was immensely impressed by it. The collection was varied and simply written and that’s what I have loved about her essays as well. Though the essays since written on multi-cultures and races; tend to get a little intense, however they are brilliantly penned by various writers.

Global communities need to be understood more today than ever. The need is not to be tolerant but to be aware of differences and may be at some level embrace them than shunning without a thought.

“The Chalk Circle” by Tara L. Masih (editor) is one such attempt to bring communities together and work on understanding them. The essays are prize-winning pieces and written by various people from various backgrounds to be able to build the barrier between races and thought processes. This collection is a result of a call, the editor put out in 2007, for Intercultural Essays dealing with subjects of “culture, race, and a sense of place”.

The sense of place is very strong in the book – for instance when I read, “Finding Center” and “Connections”, I could not help but wonder about Home and what does it take to call it that. What makes culture? What is the spirit behind it? Is there anything more to it than people? Identity plays a major role in these essays.

The book is divided into the following sections: The Chalk Circle: Identity, Home and Borderlands, As I Am: Letters of Identity, The Tongue of War: A Clash of Cultures, The Tragedy of the Color Line, Eyewitness: As seen by another, The Other and the Culture of Self and Spirit. Each essay is written with a lot of life and magnanimity. It is the emotions lying at the surface – what if things had been different, what if circumstances were to change, and what if identity was as clear as most things in life.

Each essay is a story that opens to the life of the writer, the theme being the same – sometimes displacement, and sometimes loss of a voice. The writing is varied, after all as the case normally is in a collection.

It isn’t easy compiling a collection of this nature. Tara L. Masih as an editor has done a fantastic job using keen insight and not being biased while selecting the essays from a lot of them that appeared for the contest. After finishing, The Chalk Circle, I could make sense of culture, race and a sense of place, in a way evolved manner than I did earlier.

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Book Review: Tamarind City by Bishwanath Ghosh

Title: Tamarind City – Where Modern India Began
Author: Bishwanath Ghosh
Publisher: Tranquebar, Westland Publishers
ISBN: 978-93-81626-33-7
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 315
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

What comes to mind when one thinks of Chennai? The heat. The Marina Beach. The food may be and nothing beyond that I guess. Chennai has been a different universe for most who do not belong to it. One cannot relate to it easily if one hasn’t lived there. I think that applies to every city, however as one of the metros, Chennai gets the most flak.
Bishwanath Ghosh has brought Chennai to readers in a different light. One that is beyond misconceptions and shatters perceptions. The book “Tamarind City” (Apt title considering the city he is talking about) is all about Chennai – from when it was Madras to present times.

Ghosh talks of the city as a muse at times, as a lover and sometimes an indifferent friend. He takes the mood of the city (so to say) and travels with it – from people he meets along the way to talking about Tollywood (the Chennai film industry) to the local cuisine and places surrounding it, Ghosh takes the critical and unbiased perspective.

The Chennai that Ghosh takes us through the book is very different from what we have imagined. He cleverly merges both – the traditional and modern aspects of the city, without favouring any. He visits historic sites, neighbourhoods, people and introduces us to varied lives led and dreams dreamed.

The writing is fluid and doesn’t jump too soon from one topic to the other, though it tends to drift a little, which can be ignored given the content. The people one meets in the book are quite different, belonging to different spectrums – from a transsexual to a yoga teacher to a top sexologist. With such people, the anecdotes and stories also get very interesting. In fact there were times while reading the book, when I forgot that it was non-fiction. The voice is casual and doesn’t demand too much intellect while reading it.

All in all, Tamarind City is one of its kinds book on Chennai as a metropolitan city and in some ways still a city that is taking its own time. I would recommend this book to those who want to know more about the city and also to those who know but like I said have a different view.

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