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Author: Ramya Abhinand

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak- Review

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak- Review

Heard of books that feed the soul? The Book Thief may well be considered one. Let me tell you at the onset, this book isn’t for those who seek a light and quick read. Nor is it for those, who like all things bright and happy.

The Book Thief is for you if you love to get right into the skin of the characters. It is for you if experimental fiction thrills you. It is for you, if you love reading about the Holocaust, even if it is something you have heard enough about.

Set in Nazi Germany, it is the unforgettable story of Liesel Meminger, who is left in the care of the Hubermanns by her mother, when she is no longer able to afford her care. Meagre existence, the times of Hitler’s reign, bomb raids and the lurking fear of shrouding a Jew in their home, young Liesel sees it all. Yet, amidst all this, she discovers something she cannot resist- her love for books. It all begins, with Liesel’s brother passing away, and she finds herself stealing her first book- The Gravedigger’s Handbook. She considers it her last link to her brother. Nightmares begin to haunt her each night after that, of her brother’s death. But slowly in the care of her foster father Hans Hubermann, she finds warmth, and learns to read.

Liesel begins to settle down in her new life on Himmel Street. Despite the fear filled times of Nazi Germany, she finds herself bonding with Rudy, stealing food from farmers and, books from the mayor’s library. The book traces the events of World War II, with loved ones joining the Army camp, attacks by the Allies, and bomb raids. Liesel finds life disrupted, strewn across, as she fights to pick up its threads and weave it back in place. But how successful is she? What does life have in store for her post the war? The poignant book would surely leave a lump in your throat, as you bring that last page to a close.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Markus Zusak’s Book Thief is surely startling in many ways. However, be prepared to sink into its vastness. The book is big and expansive, all with is 552 pages. It could have been more concise. There are portions that stretch and make reading slow. But then, it gives you a better understanding of life in those fear filled years of Nazi Germany.

What stood out in the book is the unique perspective, with “Death” as the story teller. The story of Liesel, brought out in a philosophic way, from death’s point of view. Yet, this book is nothing about death and dying. The writing is elegant, with expressive metaphors. Zusak throws in fate and chance encounters, to make them collide in a seamless fashion.

It surely is yet another book about the Holocaust. I wouldn’t want to compare this with the masterpiece- Schindler’s Ark. But, The Book Thief does a fair amount of justice to the subject. I wasn’t soaked in tears when I completed it, but yes, did sit in pensive though for a while. It is no easy read, and it takes a while for the book to fully sink into you. You need to give this book that time, to savor and truly appreciate all the metaphors and personifications it holds.

Its a Taboo!! #AtoZChallenge

Its a Taboo!! #AtoZChallenge

Marriage is all about togetherness. It is about two different individuals coming together, of experiences, of the joys of starting a family, of tears and happiness. And fights too… Yet, when the basis of marriage- companionship and happiness- is threatened, I wonder why the option of divorce is scorned upon in society and considered a taboo.

Statistically, divorce rates in India are far lower than what it is in western counties. Of course there has been a general rise in the trend, but this is restricted to urban-metro cities. When we look at the teeny-weeny villages, tier 2 towns and other rural and semi-rural regions, divorce rates are minimal. Is this because, we Indians are happy in our marriages, and we don’t really have issues of compatibility and happiness, with our spouse?

Maybe there is an all together different issue that looms. Divorce in our country is still a taboo. I picked 5 reasons that were commonly echoed amongst people I have discussed this with. 

Reason 1: The Family reputation

We Indians live in a close knit community. Family, friends, neighbours, society etc… are inter-linked and blended into our lives. Their influences are strong and opinions affect us. Thus, we have grave concerns about any kind of negative opinion they could brew about our family reputation.

Reason 2: Respectable family girls don’t divorce

Absurd as it may seem, a family’s respect lies in the conduct of the women folk. And divorce is look at as an “unrespectable” act.  Walking out of a marriage could put a question mark to the respect the family commands.

Reason 3:  Living alone is not easy. It’s a dangerous world out there

However financially independent a lady may be, living a life on her own isn’t going to be easy. A girl always needs the support of her man. And staying away from him would probably bring in more trouble. She could be tagged as “readily available” and unwanted men may pry on her.

Reason 4: The Social outcasts/stigma

Here is another absurd reason. The concept of being a “Suhagan” (staying married with husband being alive) is upheld high in Indian society. On most social gatherings and festive occasions, “Suhagans” are given importance and are well attended to in comparison to a widow or a Divorcee. Often such individuals are kept away from important rituals.

Reason 5: The question of remarriage

Though our society has opened up considerably to the idea of remarriage, there still are issues that crop up in case of divorcee remarriage, starting with a big doubt on the character of the divorcee. And a divorcee with a child? Well it could just get tougher.

Surprisingly I realized the rules were more flexible for a man if he were divorced!

In a country where we spend enormous amounts of money on a wedding, ending it is scorned upon predominantly because a marriage is coming together of two families. A divorce means a rift or split between the families and not actually the individuals concerned. Even if a relationship genuinely requires a split, it never does make it to divorce- the families just hush up the matter.

Image source: Pixabay

 

Shades of Me! #AtoZChallenge

Shades of Me! #AtoZChallenge

am a woman. Yes you can definitely say that by my gait and shadow. You also know that by the roles I adorn. I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter and a sister. But is this all that defines me? No, I am all this and much more…So what makes me who I am? Two shades I care about the most…

I am passionate about expressing myself through words. Words that could be woven to communicate and, those that inspire others and probably give them a hope in gloomy days. I love the beautiful relationships that make my life, the whole envelope of family bliss around me. It gives me a peace of mind.

I like the feeling of independence. It is all about doing the things dear to my heart, without having to have restrictions. It’s a freedom to the way I want to and not the way someone else wants it. I like the “my time” I create for myself every day. It’s a time I don’t adorn a hat and am just me. When kids are tucked in bed and the quietness of the night makes it easy for my mind’s horizon to expand and explore, I read. I write. I dream.

These are shades of me, the things that make me who I am, and surely all the other woman out there too!!

Image Source: Pixabay

Reminiscences of the King of Fruits – Mango #AtoZChallenge

Reminiscences of the King of Fruits – Mango #AtoZChallenge

“The joy in a slice of mango is unmatched- pure bliss.”

What is it with fathers and mangoes? Why does a fruit as simple as this weave a web of memories of bygone days in my mind? Come summer and every year the season is welcomed by this green and yellow fruit. They may be juicy or tangy and sour. Yet, you could enjoy them in any way you choose. 

My father loved the fruit. My memories of my childhood summers are full of my father’s antics with mangoes. Though I loved the fruit myself, I could never really understand his obsession with the fruit. All that I was really interested in was to dig my teeth into the juicy pulp.

It was a whole ritual. Every time he would go to our roadside vendor to choose the fruit himself. The right one had to smell right, look right and feel right. He would judge how good the mango is by looking at the stem point. After he brought them home, he would wash them well and peel the skin thinly with a knife.  He would further slice them into thin long stripes or dice them and keep them on  a platter. It would be then refrigerated for an hour or so, and served after dinner.  Ah!!! The feeling then was sheer bliss…

Years have passed by….My Dad isn’t there anymore. And my passion for mangoes has somehow died along with him

I am a parent now and I do the mango ritual for my kids in my own way. I choose them randomly, hoping they are good. I lack the skill my father had. I skin them with a peeler, unable to slice thin with a knife. The only simlarity is that I refrigerate them for a while before serving. And yes, my kids love it.

I realized now, it was not his skill … It is the pure love that he had in his heart for the fruit and for us, to serve us the best.

Image Source: Pixabay
Winning over those cold Russian days- I am More Indian Than You Think!

Winning over those cold Russian days- I am More Indian Than You Think!

The wind was cold and harsh. Despite the heavy jacket, it seemed to cut through every muscle of my body. As the snow fell on the cobbled streets of Moscow, I cursed myself for having volunteered for the eighteen month long assignment, in the capital city of Russia. Much to my mother’s displeasure, I had packed my bags, knowing very well the temperature in winters could touch as low as -15 degrees centigrade!!!

As I stepped out of the Domadevo Airport, armed with the one Russian phrase I knew- здравствуйте (“How are you?”), the gargantuan city of Moscow, simply took me by storm. The food, the people, the language, the roads, they all seemed a tad too distant. I missed all that I had taken for granted so far in my life. The music on All-India Radio, which my mom played every morning, the steaming Dal-Chawal she would prepare, and the old Bollywood movies that Doordarshan sometimes telecast on Sunday afternoons.

Some days you just need to create your own sunshine… Shades of Moscow in winters

Eighteen months, how was I going to get through it all?

I walked into a quirky looking café near Red Square…

I couldn’t but help notice the music that was being played. The soulful music of Anoushka Shankar on her Sitar wafted through the air. For years, the sound of the Sitar was unknown to the west, until Pundit Ravi Shankar opened up a whole new world. His daughter, Anoushka Shankar, is now conserving this essence of Indian music. That evening at the Russian Café, the classical music of the Indian subcontinent cast a magical spell on me.

I am more Indian than you think, because the music that day felt so humane, and the Russian café felt more like home.

The Indian restaurant in the by-lanes of Moscow

The steaming bowl of Sambar and soft Basmati rice in front of me made my mouth water. It is said that this lentil-based vegetable stew, made with tamarind, originated in the kitchens of Thanjavur Marathas during the 17th century, in South India.

I am more Indian than you think, because centuries later as a humble south Indian girl, I feasted on Sambar, across the globe in a country alien to Thanjavur or the Marathas.

The day I watched a Kathak performance in Moscow

As the flags of Russia and India intertwined at the backdrop of the stage, I sat spellbound. Young Russian students elegantly performed the “thath” sequence, as the sound of ghungroos and the tablas, echoed across the houseful auditorium.

I surely am more Indian than you think as tears filled my eyes, when the claps from the audience fell loudly on my ears.

And similarly, more Indian than you think is Lufthansa Airlines

Lufthansa airlines makes your flight experience as Indian as possible when you soar into foreign skies. Whether it is the food, the inflight entertainment or the hospitality, feel at home from the moment you step on board. Be welcomed the Indian way and get spoken to in a language you understand best. Lufthansa gives you the comfort of being yourself- that of an Indian!

Here’s celebrating India’s growing global influence as seen in this new Lufthansa TVC. Surely, we are #MoreIndianThanYou

Time surely flies by when you are having fun

I had found my winning way, in snowy Russia, as those eighteen months in Moscow just flew by. When all things around you are Indian, the feeling of belonging to the country, stays within the heart. It is said that when you travel the world, you realize how much of an Indian you actually are. I had finally understood the profoundness this statement held.

What’s Your Happiness Quotient Today? #AtoZChallenge

What’s Your Happiness Quotient Today? #AtoZChallenge

So what’s the most beautiful thing you have with you today? What’s your happiness quotient?

I sat at my desk this morning trying to write, when I was constantly distracted by my four year old daughter. The little one was doing some craft work as part of her school curriculum. I saw her hands move swiftly as she sat sticking tiny sequins and beads on a white sheet in front of her. She wanted to do it her way, yet every few minutes she would look up to me for small approvals. I soon realized that all that my daughter sought from me was not my expertise on craft making, but just my time. I just gave in and shut down my laptop. It was all for those innocent smiles, which made my world, feel complete. I was happy that there is someone around me indeed to add to my happiness.

We are together in this…

And that brings me to the concept of happiness quotient

We humans are constantly in search of happiness. The internet is loaded with infinite wisdom on how to seek it and, things one could do to bring in happiness in their lives. But the actual fact is, which we very often fail to acknowledge, that we humans are nothing but social animals. We need another person in our life to bring in that happiness quotient. Happiness is a feeling that is to be shared, and it isn’t something you could enjoy in isolation.

Look around you

It could be from something as simple as giving someone a compliment. Or it could be going for long walks with your loved one. Exchange those few words of kindness with your domestic help, and surely you would be doing your bit to make someone happy, in turn receiving your share of it. In our hectic lives today, we often get stuck cribbing about our mundane routines. Caught in this nitty-gritty of life, we stop to notice the happiness quotient that lies strewn all across us.

I found mine today, as I saw that smile curve on my four year olds face.

So what’s your happiness quotient today?

Image Source: Pixabay
Pictures Online? Exercise Caution #AtoZChallenge

Pictures Online? Exercise Caution #AtoZChallenge

More than a year back, child rights activists in Chennai came across and demanded to shut down two Facebook pages that were in Tamil. The pages were created to attract pedophiles with photographs of young girls with comments full of sexual connotation.

Social media giant Facebook has a policy that does not allow nude pictures, but these pages used pictures of children in full clothes. There was nothing sleazy or objectionable about the images – the photos were the kind you and I would post of our children. So technically it doesn’t fall under the obscenity category and hence the website’s algorithm was probably unable to decipher. Also, Facebook was unable to pick up on these pages because both the page and the comments were largely in Tamil and it is difficult to identify regional language words.

Online predators lift pictures from innocent posts uploaded by young children or their parents. Similar pages surfaced in Kerala too. After several complaints, the pages were pulled down. There were pictures of children from the age of 5 to 15 with sexually explicit comments. The cyber police had forwarded the complaint to Facebook and the page was taken down.

In today’s world of Social Media interactions, how much should parents share and how much should they refrain? Most parents embrace social networks as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends scattered across the globe, uploading pictures of their young children. While we shouldn’t let paranoia take over our lives, we have to be very careful when doing so. Bear in mind:

  • Know how much to share. Never give away exact locations, school names and other such details.
  • Understand the importance of not tagging locations
  • Refrain from posting updates and pictures on a daily basis. It could entice someone within your circle.
  • Use stricter privacy settings

With the perversion and pedophilic individuals all across the web, great caution should be exercised.

Image Source: Pixabay
Of Children and their Thoughts #AtoZChallenge

Of Children and their Thoughts #AtoZChallenge

Children have this unique skill of giving the simplest of solutions to the most complex of issues in life. They can give answers to questions we ourselves never really manage to find. It’s amazing to see how innocence can address the complexities of life.

I lost my father in the early months of 2015, after a fierce and unsuccessful tryst with cancer. It was not a fight that was his alone, but it actually was the entire family’s fight. The grief that followed post death was pretty subdued. In fact it was more a relief that the pain and trauma the disease inflicted on each one of us had eased out. Through the months of 2015, despite me settling back into normal course of life, I would stumble upon things belonging to dad and ponder about the good old days.

On a warm Saturday afternoon, I sat in my verandah pondering over thoughts. The warmth of the afternoon sun was a comforting embrace, when all of a sudden my 7 year old propped her head on my lap, staring right into my face. She sensed all wasn’t well and asked me if I was missing grandpa. She had earlier asked me at the time of death as to what happened to grandpa, and where he had gone. I had then told her the usual story that now grandpa had become a star. But, somehow I felt like being frank at that moment and said, “Yes, I am missing him a lot today”.

My little girl thought for a while, held my hand and said, “Mamma, why do you feel sad? Grandpa is here only. He hasn’t gone anywhere”. I gave her a stare. She continued, “See Mamma, he has just become a star and it is morning time now, so you are not able to see him. When it is night-time, he will come out then you can see him”. She didn’t stop there. She added, “Grandpa is seeing you always, but you aren’t looking at him because you are always sad and then sleep in the night. So grandpa should miss you…”

I had a hearty laugh. Not that what she said made much sense to me, but I realized she had found answers in her own convincing way. Answers filled with innocence. It made me feel better and I smiled with an uncanny lightness in my heart.

Over and out to you little girl!

Image Source: Pixabay
Not a Moment to Spare #AtoZChallenge

Not a Moment to Spare #AtoZChallenge

Not a moment to spare. We humans lead one of the busiest lives. This is true, despite the fact that things are easily available these days. Your photographs are instant, and are there in front of you immediately after you click them. You could order a meal with a swipe and click on your smart phone. Your bank is at your doorstep, and you could also book movie tickets in a jiffy, without having to stand in long queues. Everything is available at a swish, swash or click of your fingers.

Yet, if there’s one thing we all don’t have with us these days, it is “Time”. We have no moment to spare, to breathe, to relax or simply just enjoy the world around us. What an irony!! It makes me wonder, when things have actually become all so easy for us, why is it that we still can’t find time?

I distinctly remember the days of the 80’s, when mobiles were nowhere in the picture. Making a call to a loved one in another city meant booking a trunk call. We used to wait for an hour or so till the operator made that precious connection. Speaking at the top of our voices, and to our hearts content, that one conversation would make our day. It would leave behind a single smile for a long time. In today’s world of what’s app, emails, Facebook, Twitter and numerous other ways to keep in touch, we still are trying to find time to call that dear friend home. So caught up are we in our busy lives that we have forgotten to unwind ourselves with our loved ones.

I personally feel we create our own time, and somewhere we have just stopped doing so. May be if we stopped, and just looked around us, life would be easier and time aplenty.

Image Source: pixabay
The Mother I Never Knew By Sudha Murty

The Mother I Never Knew By Sudha Murty

Last weekend I completed reading Sudha Murty’s “The mother I never knew”. A collection of two simple novellas, the book gives a peek into families and their past secrets- and how important are they in the here and now.

The book presents two different men and their stories. Venkatesh the bank manager, accidently stumbles upon his father’s past and discovers an abandoned wife and child. On the other hand Mukesh, the son of a well-to-do man, discovers on his father’s death that he was actually adopted. Both men accidently uncover a past, to find a mother they never knew existed. How do both of them make amends?

The Mother I Never Knew is a poignant dramatic book, reaching into not only human emotions but also subtly touching upon various social evils exiting in our society.

Sudha Murty writes in her trademark style- simple narration sans superfluous words. Both the tales are humble, straight forward stories. I wouldn’t call them something new, ‘cause books and movies have portrayed similar ones before. Nevertheless, I liked Sudha Murty’s touch as she delves into social practices and evils that exist in our society.

After substantial amount of serious reading this book seemed a breeze to me. The first novella “Venkatesh” kept me reading as narration moved on to events in a quick pace. However she could have surely omitted a couple of dialogues among the key characters, which seemed a bit irrelevant to me. The second novella “Mukesh” was quite a letdown. The plot dragged on and moved towards being very predictable. I liked the fact that in both the novellas the melo-drama was kept minimal.

The Mother I Never Knew may surely not be Sudha Murty’s best of fictions. If you would love to get a flavor of North Karnataka and its ways, this book could give you that experience. Otherwise I would call it an average read, which could be completed in a single sitting.