Books 2016, Little Moments, Ram Leela, Uncategorized

Reading aloud

Ram is not an independent reader yet, but I am reading far more advanced books to him than what I did for Hari at this age.  I stopped reading to Hari once he started reading on his own, although he lingers and listens when Ram and I read at breakfast.  With Ram, I hope to keep up the practice of reading aloud a little longer.

What a joyful experience it is to read with someone, especially a tiny tot with eyes that show expressions of wonder and comprehension. Ram likes to pick a character as we read along and pretend that he is that character. Then we get silly repeating some of the dialogues from the books. Also, how could I miss out on the  last opportunity to read all the books that I did not read as a child.

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Books 2016, Uncategorized

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Ram and I finished reading Charlotte’s Web this evening.  It is gem of a book that left us choking as I read the last few chapters aloud for Ram.  The friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur – how very genuine, loyal, and selfless. The prose is sheer poetry in pockets. Not to mention how very funny it is in parts and how very cleverly the author has weaved in new words for little readers to learn. Much fun was had recalling the conversation between Wilbur and Charlotte and the antics of Templeton. Ram and I highly recommend this book.

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Books 2016, Experiments, Uncategorized

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I spied this book in the “Read Now” section of my local library and grabbed it in a heartbeat. While I have not followed Gretchen Rubin’s work extensively, I have known that she is a credible author, whose writings resonate with me. Better Than Before is a book on habit forming, a topic that is close to my heart and one that I struggle with all the time.

I relished the first half of the book. Gretchen makes a convincing case for cultivating habits. By doing something over and over, you free up mental space and valuable time that is spent on decision making. She then gives a framework that she calls Tendencies – four kinds of personalities in the context of habit formation. Know your Tendency and apply some helpful strategies that she provides in the second half of the book.

I loved the honesty in her writing. I liked how she does not take the one-size-fits-all approach instead encourages you to delve deeper, figure yourself and your values. I also like that the book is primarily based on personal experiences rather than studies based. If you are someone interested in cultivating a new habit or want to get rid of an old habit, this books is worth a shot!

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Books 2016, Life, Uncategorized

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Every once in awhile you come across a book that elevates your thinking and uplifts your soul. When Breath Becomes Air is one such gem.

The author’s last name and the subject that he wrote on lured me to his essay published in NYT last January. Wanting to know more about this prolific writer cum neurosurgeon, I headed to his website and devoured every word he had written or published. Reading Paul’s writings triggers an unquenchable thirst to write. Such is the magnetic pull of his words, that it ignites the spark to write. To paraphrase the author, words outlive us, they have the longevity that we do not. How very true! Sadly, Paul Kalanithi passed away last March after a 22-month battle with lung cancer. Undoubtedly, a monumental loss to mankind.

When Breath Becomes Air is Paul’s life story – it is about his love affair with literature, his quest to find out what makes life meaningful. It is an account of how he became a neurosurgeon, and it gives us a peek into the kind of doctor that he was. It captures the details of his diagnosis and how he and his wife came to terms with it. The deep thinker that he is, he tosses questions in the midst of his narration and makes you pause and reflect. For eg. If an unexamined life is not worth living, is an unlived life worth examining?

Paul’s health deteriorated rapidly before he could complete this book. Following his passing away, his wife, Lucy, takes us through the last days of his life in the Epilogue. The writing is raw, poignant, and a celebration of Paul’s life. The kind that has tears streaming down your cheek as you read line after line with an unexplainable pang piercing through your heart.

By facing death with integrity, Paul Kalanithi inspires us to look within and figure out what we value and what matters most to us. Because those are the things that constitute a meaningful life.

Don’t miss out on this book. Own it, if you can!

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Books 2016, Inspiration, Learnings, Reading, Research, Uncategorized

MS – A Life in Music by T.J.S. George

As a child, I grew up listening to devotional songs by MS – the Hanuman Chalisa, the Ramnavali, the Suprabatham, and the Vishnu Sahasranamam. One of my proud mommy moments was when my 2-year old second born would regale us with the singing of the first few words of Bhaja Govindam by MS when he had barely begun to string words into sentences. Every once in a while, I would resolve to play her songs at home as steadfastly as my dad did, only to let it slip in the humdrum of life. 

MS, to me and to several others exposed to her mellifluous voice and divine rendition, is synonymous with devotion. A certain sense of peace pervades your being as you lose yourself to her singing. Little did I know that underlying that serenity were stormy forces and scandalous events that made MS a household name in south India.

In this biography, MS – A life in Music, author T.J.S. George has done a phenomenal job of writing the life story of MS in the context of the societal norms, the evolving performing arts, and the people in her life – notably her mom Shanmughavadivu, her husband Sadasivam, and her contemporaries.

I confess that half way through the book, a part of me wished that I had not started this book because I was worried that I would feel let down – I would form impressions of MS that I didn’t want to. But I am glad that I persisted because the rest of the book so beautifully reinforced how that her enablers (her mom and her husband) may have made calculated moves to make MS popular but that did not in anyway adulterate her dedication to her art . From the beginning to end, MS did what she knew best – being true to her music. With passion. With discipline. And devotion. Nothing else mattered to her. 

If you heart MS or are a music lover, this is the book for you. You will not only end up learning more about the legend but become more knowledgeable about the dynamics that shaped the carnatic music through generations. 

I leave you with few lines from the book that tugged at my heartstrings.

“Her involved non-involvement, her detached attachment somehow enhanced her beatific profile. She was Sadasivam’s wife, Rajaji’s disciplie, Kalki Krishnamurthi’s friend, but she was always MS. In the end, she herself was her music and her bhakthi. In the end she attained what the people around her seemed to miss – a sense of fulfillment. Sadasivam was successful and devout, but did he find ultimate fulfilment? Rajaji stayed for long at the top of political and social pyramids, but did he find the satisfaction of the true achiever?

A look at MS was enough to convince anyone that she had found herself. When she sang the Rajaji hymn “Kurai ondrum illai” it was like she was telling the world about herself and thanking her god for his blessings. One word occurred frequently in the language of those who met MS in her later years: Glow. Everyone talked about how she glowed from within. In the midst of frenetic life, she had found serenity. An aura of grace surrounded her.

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