Friday, December 31, 2010

Confessions of a Shopaholic - Book Review

This is a book written just so it can be made into a movie and surely, the little blurb on the paperback I am reading says “Now a major motion picture”; which also means that I am reading it probably a few years after it showed up in bookstores and became a bestseller. Written by Sophie Kinsella in the typical breezy chick-lit genre, it another Bridget Jones, in the guise of Becky Bloomwood, a twenty-something with a job she can barely tolerate but needs desperately to pay for her addiction.
Retail-therapy is what works for our heroine, as the title suggests. As you flip through the pages, you find her acquiring objects with a frenzy that is mind-boggling. From her penchant for cappuccino and chocolate to her obsession with branded clothes and shoes, she comes across as an air-head with a credit card but no concept of living within her means. As all addicts, she lies and cheats to feed her weakness but instead of dark drama , the narrative is light-hearted and downright funny.

Situated in the happening city of London, we come across names of all major retailers including Harrods and some that may not be as familiar to readers from other countries. But it is hard to not be reminded of the predicament of damsels in distress across centuries from the time of Jane Austen, who need to be rescued by knights in shining armor. In times of fiscal crisis as Becky finds herself in with her credit cards confiscated and accounts that are penniless, she comes across not one but two prospective knights of the new millennium who have the potential to save her.

The book is an easy read, funny and light, good to take while awaiting that delayed flight or to take along on a holiday.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Women Who Dared

WOMEN WHO DARED
Edited by : Ritu Menon
Price : Rs. 75-00

Women who dared is a modest but sincere attempt to record the contribution that a few representative women have engineered in the socio-cultural landscape of the country over the last fifty years. The readers will get glimpse of the nation's own biography as it is reflected in the lives of women through their brief cameo autobiographies. The anthology features women who, in their diverse way, have not only left a mark of their own, but in some significant ways represent the struggles and aspirations of the entire womenfolk.

There are many many women who became very famous in their chosen fields. But this book gives just 21 women for the present. May be there are many omissions but the list itself is also good. Few of the 21 women is as below.

(1) Karanam Malleswari: She has the pride of place as an international weight-lifting champion. Weight-lifting for women has become synonymous with her name. She has won 25 golds over the years nationally and internationally. She has awarded many awards including the Padmashri award.

(2) Preety Sen Gupta: She exemplifies the invincible traveler! She has been traveling across the world, always alone, for over three decades and visited more than a hundred countries on all six continents of the world-and the seventh Antarctica , as well. She became the first Indian and first vegetarian to reach the Magnetic North Pole in the high Arctics. She travels without any prior reservations or bookings. It is very fantastic to read her adventures.

(3) Padma Ramachandran: She was the first woman IAS officer in the early 1950s and retired as Chief Secretary of Kerala Government. She is the President of the Institute of Urban and Regional Development, Trivandrum.

(4) Sonal Mansingh: She is an unparalleled representative of the ancient but ever new art dance traditions of India. Her role as a social activist, thinker, researcher, orator, choreographer and teacher combines with her dancing, further enriching the tradition. She is a leading exponent of Odissi, the ancient traditional dance style of Orissa. She has won many many awards.

Very interesting and inspirational book.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Life in Music

Name of the book : M S A life in Music
Author: T.J.S.GEORGE
Cost : Rs.295-00

M. S. Subbulakshmi, the famous name of Carnatic music is to known to all music lovers of India. To know how music transcends all barriers, all one has to do is to listen to MS Subbulakshmi sing. Her mellifluous voice, her phenomenal diction and above all, her emotional and aesthetic appeal held audiences worldwide spell bound. Her long and fascinating odyssey began in the south Indian temple town of Madurai and took her to various places including Madras, New York and London. She became famous because of her concerts for charitable causes. Her first charitable cause Kasturba Gandhi. If her repertoire was legendary, so was her humility, despite having won the Magsaysay Award ( 1974 ) and the Bharat Ratna ( 1998 ).

She is married to Sri T.Sasasivam , who guided her career and made her famous. They are very closely connected to the famous personalities of that time like Sri C.Rajagopalachari, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Babu Rajendra Prasad, S. Radhakrishnan to name a few. They also maintained close rapport with North Indian Hindustani Ustads such as Bismillah Khan (Shehnai), Ravi Shankar (Sitar), Alla Rakha (tabla) Alladiya Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan are her idols. Nehru is a great admirer of MS. At one of her concerts where Nehru is the chief guest he said " who-am-I-a-mere-Prime Minister-before-a-queen-of-songs ".

This authoritative biography unravels the saga of one of India's most revered and respected musicians, whose name became synonymous with bhakti.

This is a very good book worth reading.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How Starbucks Saved My Life - Book Review

I picked up the book at Evening Hour attracted by the title - coffee is definitely classified as a stimulating beverage but lifesaving? I was intrigued by the description that it was "the riches to rags story of a man who had it all, then lost it all and found it again."

The book is a memoir of Michael Gates Gill, a man in his sixties, living in New York, who finds himself in unexpected circumstances after a life of privilege. Son of a prominent writer and blessed with a picture-perfect life; prestigious job at a respected advertising agency, wife and kids, houses and corporate perks, Michael loves the life of luxury that he is blessed with. But with sudden job loss, followed by other personal misfortunes, he finds himself without a job, a home and all alone.

That is when he walks into a Starbucks for a latte and is asked by a young black woman whether he wants a job. On a whim and clutching the offer as a last straw, Michael begins a new life as a "partner" at Starbucks. He literally learns a new way of life and begins by cleaning the toilet and floors. Over a period of time, Michael learns not only how to start a new career from the bottom of the ladder but also interacts with people who were never part of his social sphere and learns about respect, dignity of labor and most importantly, how to find happiness in life. Starbucks provides a supportive work environment which respects guests and partners (as customers and employees as called in Starbucks lingo) and provides the ideal space for Michael to have his epiphanies. He builds a relationship with his grown children on an equal footing and regains his self-esteem.

The book is written in a light, narrative style with broad glimpses of life in upper-class New York society, a time in US history where Michael is fortunate enough to meet the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Ernest Hemmingway and others. There are personal insights along the way including advice on how precious moments of life are bypassed in the quest for career success, fame or money.

As the story chronicles Michael's life for a period of almost a year, the book appears to be not just the story of one person but of Starbucks as an organization that truly strives to be different in its approach towards both its partners as well as its guests.

I particularly liked the quotes at the beginning of each chapter which are quotes printed on the side of coffee cups at Starbucks, either extracts from songs or by guests at Starbucks. My favorite one was "The human catalysts for dreamers are the teachers and encouragers that dreamers encounter throughout their lives. So here's a special thanks to all of the teachers." Micheal describes his school teacher, Miss Markham, who kept faith in Michael who as a boy who could not read until he was in sixth grade and wrote him a prediction "Michael Gates Gill is destined to be great."

For most of the book, the teacher's prediction seemed redundant considering that a child born into the lap of luxury, graduate of Yale, top brass at a prestigious ad agency, pretty much had lived a live preordained through his birth until his sixties. But at the end of the book, Michael acknowledges all the significant influences in the writing of the book and the fact that it was chosen to be made into a film by the incredibly talented Tom Hanks.

Michael Gill attained his greatness as predicted by Miss Markham, but only when he rewrote his fate by starting over, at the place where most of us live all our lives.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Confession by John Grisham

Page-Turner is an adjective that is often used to describe John Grisham novels. The latest book by John Grisham, The Confession, published by Arrow books turned out to be another of those page-turners right from the first few pages. The story starts with just another visitor, though he seems peculiar with no coat and shoes, to the Church wanting to talk to the minister. No sooner is it revealed that this visitor is one who had been in the prison many times and many years for rapes, assaults, and now on parole but also has an inoperable brain tumor.

The visitor to the Church, Travis Boyette abducted, raped and killed Nicole, a high-school cheerleader. Not knowing the true murderer, the city police arrested Donte Drumm, a local football star and sent him to the death row. After nine years, when Donte Drumm is just days away from execution, Travis Boyette feels the guilt and decides to confess and set Donte Drumm free. As a first step, he approached Keith, the Minister of the Church. At Donte Drumm's end, there is a lawyer Robbie Flak who believed Donte and had been fighting for all the nine years, in every way possible. Though it felts like a straightforward mystery, what follows is a journey of twists, and an ending that is least expected.

John Grisham took a lot of effort in establishing the case, the characters, their attitudes, preferences, and even the smaller details including the body movements. While the beginning seems to move at a slow pace because of the character establishment, and describing the case background, soon after, the story picks up speed and the plot unravels.

Surely another good mystery by John Grisham!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Readers Guild Book Club Meets

EveningHour launched new programs on its first anniversary, October 23rd. One of it is the Readers Guild Book Club! The club meets once a month, on every second Saturday at 4 PM. The members discuss the key aspects that they learnt from the book, any observations that they made, how they are applicable to the regular life style, any character that they have liked or the sequence of events that has impressed them. The list can go on. At the end of the meet, the group decides on the next month's book as well.

Readers Guild Members have met twice so far, Nov 13th and Dec 11th. For the first meet, the group read and discussed about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People written by Stephen R. Covey. Though it was a small group of 5, the discussion was highly informative and lasted for a whole one hour. The group talked about all the seven habits and understood the significance of the habits. The habits cover both personal victory as well as public victory.

Since the first book was a non-fiction, the decision was that the second book should be a fiction so that we can cover all the genres one after the other. Catcher in the Rye is a highly acclaimed, loved and also a controversial book where the main character is an anti-hero. When the book was released, while the teenagers loved the hero,  parents, schools and libraries banned the book and any talk of it. It indeed turned out to be quite an interesting read. The members said they completed the book in one go. The 20+ loved the book while the 30+ thought it was an interesting book. On the whole, the book was well received.

At the end of the meet, the team decided to expand the next month's meet to not just one book but to all the books written by the famous 'John Grisham'. His latest book 'The Confession' is out and this will be a good time to read it and also talk about his famous works. Join us Jan 8th for the next Readers Guild Meet.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

Lots of people have told me that Catcher in the Rye is a 20th century classic and a good read. Though I always wanted to read the book, the language was a little '20th century-ish' and I ended up postponing for another time. But, now that EveningHour Book Club's month-of-the-book is 'Catcher in the Rye', I picked it up again.

The story is about a teenager who had been ousted from school, his life-style at the hostel, friends, girl-friends, the measures he takes to hide it from the parents and a whole lot more - all in his own words. He was ousted from the school because of the marks in the exams, and because of the altercation with the roommate in the hostel, he vacated it immediately. What he does from then on until he reaches home is the major part of the novel.


The novel's protagonist and antihero, Holden Caulfield, became an icon for teenage rebellion. A very controversial book, banned from schools and libraries for the bad influence on the children. 


Many books have taken 'inspiration' from this Catcher in the Rye. Surprisingly, the book has never been made into a movie!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

 
Aha! That is right! Wow, That is so true!

This is what I went on thinking and even saying out loud when reading 'Rich Dad Poor Dad'. And, I am very sure, most of you would have similar expressions! Robert Kiyosaki has said all about finances, cash flow, income, balance sheets, saving, wealth, rich, investments and a lot more - and said it simple enough for any one - I repeat, any one to understand. The narration goes on like a story but all the while only explaining facts and nothing else.

Is your house an asset or a liability ? Robert says if you do not have the assets to pay for the monthly EMIs and you need to pay for it from your monthly salary, it might as well be a liability and not an asset because that is an expense for which you have to stay in the 'rat race'.

Robert also talks about 'Mind Your Business'.What do you think is the main business of McDonalds ? Is it hamburgers ? Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, says his main business is real estate. To understand how this works, it is better to read it in Ray Kroc's words in 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' book.

Robert Kiyosaki and his friend Mike learned all this from the age of 9. So, read the book, understand it and teach what it says to the young young ones as well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What does it take ?

We all know and accept that books are good, meeting people, exchanging views, networking are essential for the all-round growth and to move ahead be it at work or otherwise. But, why is it that in the grind of our daily chores, we fail to realize the importance of it and or may be say and believe to ourselves - next time ?

What does it take to motivate ourselves to not just be bogged down by our short-term goals of examinations or work pressures but look at the big picture of life and take time out to do something that is necessary for the bigger goal. May be really understanding what it means by 'Begin with the end in mind!' and 'Sharpen the Saw' as said by Stephen Covey would help us understand the importance of doing all. Or is it one more read of 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho ?

Or let us change the question and analyze from the other end. What activities other than school/work, movies and computer games will stir an interest ?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Secret - The Power


'What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists."
Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)



Like most of us, I know of 'The Secret' book for at least one year. Though I have perused the book, I did not get a chance to read through it. Unfortunately, whenever I picked up the book, I dozed off.

Of late, Vasu, a dear friend and a member of EveningHour, presented the 'Secret' DVD and enforced that I watch it. Owing to the 'nagging', I did watch it. And! I am glued to 'The Secret' now.

The Secret and  The Power re-iterated what I learned growing up.
You be positive, nice and helpful to others - and when you need, you get the help even from unexpected quarters.

Few points from 'The Power'


Love is the one force that will bring anything and everything that you wish for. The only catch is that you do not cancel it out immediately. Imagine this scenario. Most of us would relate to it.

One minute you are happy and you give love to your child/friend/spouse. In no time, you are angry and upset because you are not able to find your keys. A little while later, you are cool and give love because your friend praised your beautiful dress. Again, in a short while, you are complaining on the boss who would not sanction a leave.

and it goes on...

Here, we are canceling out the good effects that come out of 'love' with equal or may be worse bad effects because you are in a bad feeling.

The books, 'The Secret' and 'The Power' give many many practical tips on keeping the mood happy, achieving everything, I repeat, EVERYTHING that you ever want!

Definitely worth reading at least once. You will not leave it until you achieved everything that you want to or at least on the path to it.Secret

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book Review:- 'Oru Deshathinte Katha' (Malayalam) by SK Pottekkatt


'Oru Deshathinte Katha' which literally means 'The story of a country' is a Malayalam novel written by SK Pottekkatt.Pottekkatt, whose travelogues are considered to be masterpieces in Malayalam literature finally wrote this autobiographical magnum opus in 1971. It became an instant bestseller and fetched him the most acclaimed Jnanapith award and Sahitya Academy award.

The story revolves around the initial 20 years of the protoganist Sridharan's life in the Malabar village called 'Athiranippadam'. While Sridharan's life is of moderate importance and interest, it is the happenings and people of Athiranippadam and Sridharan's relationship with his father Krishnan Master that makes up the core of the story. The story begins with the birth of Sridharan and continues till he is about twenty. In between the reader is taken through numerous happenings in the village, hundreds of characters who make up the natives of the land and anecdotes concerning them. Sridharan's relationship with his father who was an epitome of truth and dharma also has been described. Sridharan finally is forced to leave the village when his father dies. The author winds up with Sridharan returning to the changed village about 30 years after. He gets to know what happened to most of the people of the village after he left 30 years before, from'Velumooppar' who is still alive (Velu was a carpenter in Athiranippadam).

The are numerous fascinating things about this novel.
The amazing charecterization of almost a hundred characters and the stories of their lives. The most interesting of them being Kunjappo, Sridharans elder brother. The roles Kunjappo plays in his life starting from being a military man and then to a painter, railway workshop fitter, Congress volunteer and the related happenings are a treat to the reader.
The magical world of Ilanjippoyil. Ilanjippoyil is village which is half forrest and half agrcultural land where Sridharan goes to stay during vacation. One would not believe that such a world exists when he reads Sridharans adventures in the jungle with his friend Appu. How many unheard birds does he hear singing! How many unheard fruits does he eat! How many unheard trees does he climb!
'Supper Sarkkeett':- The midnight mischieves done by Sridharan(referred as 'Minor' by his senior friends) and his friends are more than entertaining.
The historical legend of the rich Kelanjeri family and how Athiranippadam sees the decline of the family, thanks to the spendthrift drunkard 'Kunjikkelu Melan', who was the last heir of the family.

There are more than a few moments where the reader may feel his eyes getting wet:- when Sridharan comes to know that Narayani is dead(Sridharan was emotionally attracted with the crippled sister of Appu); when Sridharans loving brother Gopalettan dies; when Krishnan Master dies and when Sridharan finally leaves Athiranippadam.

There would be a hundred oringinal characters in the story.(All of them are normal people like carpenters, toddy workers etc)Its unbelievable how the writer explains the history and heroics of each and later relates them to the central story and happenings. The reader is left to wonder whether such a small village would have so many interesting people!

The writer of this review wonders how much autobirographical the novel is. Does Athiranippadam really exist? If yes, did all of people mentioned live there? Or has the writer fit all the interesting people he met in his life into the imaginary village called Athiranippadam, much like what RK Narayan did with Malgudi? If that is true, the writer has done a commendable job in relating the character introduced in say 50th page into a happening say in 400th page.

The language of the novel is beautiful, its simplicity being its beauty:- I had the same feeling of being narrated by my grandfather. The dialect changes with the dialogues of different characters. Some portions when Sridharan goes through his
teenage love affairs are poetic.

The writer also has narrated the ripples caused by different historical happenings (like the Mopla Revolt or 'Jagala'of 1921 and the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 during the period) in the village. These are interesting to say the least.

The ending has been dragged a little when the author takes the reader through some incidents which happened with Sridharan after leaving Athiranippadam. These could have been avoided, the story could have ended with just mentioning what happened
with the different people of the village.

Altogether a very engaging book, the reader would be left with the hangover at least for a couple of days. A must read in Malayalam or even Indian literature, creations of such magnitude are rare to find!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Event Review:- Meet the Author-Speaker-Coach Venu Bhagavan

This Saturday (Jul 24 2010), EveningHour saw a meet and an interaction with the renowned speaker and author Venu Bhagavan.

Having received recognition after delivering 700 inspirational talks on different topics, it was an open-discussion with the author. Despite being a rainly evening, it had no adverse effect on the amount of people who joined the discussion nor in their enthusiasam.

The author started with a self introduction. His personal story has been rich with experiences:- brought up in a village, no formal college education, taking up small jobs in workshops, turning into business, learning English and finally discovering the speaker and writer in him. Given that his own life is an inspirational success-story, his discussions were involved around real-life incidents.

After the self introduction, the attendees were asked to introduce themselves. After each introduction, the author responded to the viewer's expectation from the discussion. The viewers poured in their opinions and queries in between. The response which the author gave was with lots of anecdotes and stories to which the viewers were able to relate easily. One of the discussions was surrounding how anger can be used positively, to which the author replied 'Anger is good when used at the right person for the right reason at the right intensity and in the right tone'. The numerous lines which the well-read author quoted and anecdotes he explained stated that he is not only an author, speaker, but also a profound thinker.

The author often talked about spirituality, effects of Karma and the dual nature of human mind. It proved that what we need in the society are not psychologists but philosphers- he himself seemed to be one. He was also extremely patient in responding to a number of questions which a little boy from Delhi Public School asked. He showed the parents present, by example, how to listen to small kids and how to nurture their inquisitveness.

What the meet perhaps lacked was a concrete topic. The discussion sometimes lost its direction. It proved good in some ways as the meet's purpose was an open discission. Because of this, the viewers were able to show the freedom to ask anything and everything.

In total, it was a very relaxed evening. The meet kept the viewers so interested that it went on after its scheduled time. The author also stayed back after the formal discussion to address personal queries. It was evident from the viewers' faces that they left the event with some of their questions answered.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MANY LIVES, MANY MASTERS

Recently, a handful of visitors to EveningHour have asked me to recommend books on Psychology. While helping them with the books on Psychology, I picked up "MANY LIVES, MANY MASTERS" by Dr. Brian Weiss.

Dr.Weiss is a prominent psychiatrist and many of his books have been categorized under psychology. Though after reading through book, we realized that this has to be further sub-categorized under 'Para-Psychology'.

The book starts as follows:

"I know there is a reason for everything. Perhaps at the moment that an event occurs we have neither the insight nor the foresight to comprehend the reason, but with time and patience, it will come to light.

So it was with Catherine."

With that starting, the author takes us through Catherine's therapy sessions. Catherine is a young patient who had been having troubled dreams, bad relationships and more than one person has recommended her to go to Dr.Weiss. For several months, Dr.Weiss tried the traditional methods of therapy and none of them helped. Dr.Weiss turned to hypnosis and thus started his journey on the path of para-psychology.

During the hypnosis sessions, Catherine initially talked about her past lives, how she looked, trauma times, how she died and about a light that seems to be everywhere. When Dr.Weiss was skeptical, in the trance, she gave some messages which she claimed to be from Dr.Weiss's father and son who have died. This and a lot of other surprising revelations, led Dr.Weiss to believe for himself that reincarnation has been proved scientifically.

Points from the book that have created an impact:

"...Wisdom is achieved very slowly. This is because intellectual knowledge, easily acquired, must be transformed into 'emotional', or subconscious knowledge. Once transformed, the imprint is permanent".

"Happiness is really rooted in simplicity. The tendency to excessiveness in thought and action diminishes happiness. Excesses cloud basic values."

The book ends as follows:

"I hope that you will be helped by what you have read here, that your own fear of death has been diminished, and that the messages offered to you about the true meaning of life will free you to go about living yours to the fullest, seeking harmony and inner peace and reaching out in love to your fellow humans."

Whether you believe in GOD, reincarnations, soul and such concepts or not, this book gives you information that is very valuable. Do take time to read or at least peruse.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Love Over Coffee - Metro Reads


After a busy week at EveningHour, we decided to try the new set of books published under 'Metro Reads' by Penguin. Picked up 'Love Over Coffee' over others for no particular reason.It turned out to be a good casual read with light humor and romance.

But, first of all, I will describe a bit about 'Metro Reads'.The books published under Metro Reads are written by Indian authors, are all around 200 pages, interesting cover pages and a regular reader can complete them within 3 or 4 hours at the maximum. The themes under 'Metro Reads' seem to be Indian based which is typical of the new age Indian authors. If you are looking for some light-weight stories to fill in a lazy Sunday afternoon, you could give these books a try.

Now, coming to 'Love Over Coffee', it's theme is Romance @ Work. Accordingly, the hero in the book, Anup, loves his colleague, Rajni. Rajni is the typical Indian girl who wants to hide her love even with her best friend, puts a limit on the number of times he can call her, never goes out to lunch with Anup but feels okay to spend  long hours (so it seems to Anup) with the team-mates. There's the usual jealousy factor, the techie person who loves coding while there are others who hardly code but totally depend on this one person to meet their deadlines. There's the selfish boss who gets work done by every body but takes all the credit. The book has all the ingredients at a typical software office.

Verdict: Good casual read.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Theodore Boone by John Grisham

Since we @ EveningHour have been reading a lot of non-fiction off late, we decided that the next read should be a light-weight novel. The plan is for us to relax and for our readers to as well. Thus the selection - Theodore Boone!


When Vimla, a friend and a member of EveningHour wanted to rent this book for her 12 year old, we were not sure as we thought it's another legal thriller by John Grisham and that we should not recommend a cold-murderer related story to a 12 yr old. But, the minute I completed the book, informed her that this book is not much different than Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys where Kids solve mysteries of missing persons and murders.

The Hero in the story is indeed the kid, Theo, sharp, intelligent, regular 8th grader who exactly knows what he wants to be. His character inspires other children. The story is filled with suspense and is indeed a page turner - though it sure is light-weight compared to other legal thrillers by Grisham.

So in case you are looking for a light-weight thriller for you or the teenagers, go ahead, read it! It is good.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Built to Last by Jim Collins

This has been on my reading list ever since a book distributor recommended this book but never got around to read it. Yesterday, Rama Krishna, a member of EveningHour library said every business must read this book! That gave the final push and got down to reading the book.


I had a different sort of writer's block for the last several minutes trying to decide the salient points I should concentrate upon. The book has such invaluable information that everyone  must read every single line of the book. Meanwhile, I will try to summarize the important points.

Book starts with describing twelve myths and shattered them. Two points that stuck to me are that it is perfectly okay and in fact preferable to have the core values and ideologies decided and written even before you start a business. The second point is the proverb that we get to hear often "You can't have the cake and eat it too!". Big companies like Sony have embraced the "Genius of the 'AND'" and said NO to the "Tyranny of the OR".

Thus, it is not

"You can have change OR stability"

BUT

"You can have change AND stability"

It is not

"You can invest for the future OR do well in the short-term"

BUT

"You can invest in the future AND do well in the short term".

And when we talk about balancing, it is not 50-50% but basically achieving 100% in both the aspects.

The book describes in detail the several methodologies adopted by various legendary and successful companies and compares with other companies in the same industry.

The book inspires, gives direction and clarity on various aspects that are absolutely necessary in running a business, for a successful career or just for our personal lives. Must read!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind

If Stephen Covey's 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' concentrates on the principles to be followed to become effective achiever, Dr.Murphy's 'The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" concentrates on the role of YOU and your mind to achieve every dream of yours.

We hear about (conscious) mind and the subconscious mind. Does it mean we have two minds ? Not really. We have only one mind that possesses two distinct and characteristic functional parts. The two functions of the mind are essentially different from each other. The many names that are used to distinguish the two are objective and subjective mind, the conscious and the subconscious mind, the waking and the sleeping mind, the surface and the deep self, and such.

So, what is it that makes the subconscious mind special ? It works every single minute - even when you are sleeping! Thus, whatever the conscious mind thinks and does while one is awake is picked up by the subconscious mind while the person is sleeping and even while off to do something else. While the conscious mind can use logical reasoning and analytical skills to understand or accept any thing, the subconscious mind cannot do any such. It simply takes off whatever the conscious mind is thinking and does the same thing continuously. That is why it is of utmost importance what we feed the subconscious. If it is good thought, positive aspects, the subconscious mind then takes off to help achieve that objective. But, if we feed it negative thoughts - be it as simple as - "Oh! I cannot afford this luxurious dress!", the subconscious mind makes sure it brings obstacles so that you indeed cannot afford that luxurious dress! It might sound illogical to you as you read this! But surely, that is how the subconscious mind works!

Read the book to know more on how you can use your subconscious mind to achieve riches, prosperity, youthfulness, work real miracles in others lives, find peace of mind and every single wish and dream of yours!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

We all heard of Stephen Covey's 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' so many number of times! I always intended to read it but never got a chance till few months ago.

When we went to Silver Oaks school in Bachupally, the habits were written on a chart and displayed so that students and visitors can read them and try to adopt them as well. And, of course, I immediately read the book! It is indeed worth the read and actually worth putting the habits into practice.


The seven habits are divided into three categories.

Private Victory

1. Be Proactive

Now, does it take a lot of convincing to agree that being proactive is absolutely necessary for everyone - the first habit that one should adopt and follow. This is the principle of personal vision. This habit says, "You are the creator. You are in charge!"

2. Begin with the End in Mind.

Stephen Covey introduced this habit in a way that creates a great impact on us. At the end of your life, how do you want to be remembered ? Do you want to be remembered as a loving, caring, intelligent, one of those persons that friends and family always want to be with or the other way around ?

Start with what the end. Be it personal life or business. Start with a clear understanding of what your destination is. And make sure all the steps you take help reach that destination.

3. Put First Things First

Things which matter most
must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.
                                                                                -- GOETHE

Effective management is putting first things first. While Leadership is deciding what matters most, it is management that puts them first, day by day and minute by minute. Time management is crucial to effective management. Organize and Execute around priorities.

Know what is important, prioritize and complete them proactively. Thus, habit 3 is dependent on you mastering habits 1 and 2.

Paradigms of Interdependence

Man is a social being. We need to depend on others, be it family, friends, colleagues or superiors. The next three habits are aimed at effectively managing interdependence.

4. Think Win/Win

Visualize any relationship that you have. If you lose continuously in that relation, how long will you continue in that relationship - happily at least. Will you not try to get away at the first chance you get. That is what Stephen stresses in this habit.

In every relationship, business contract or any dealing that you do, think of a win-win solution. You should win and your counterpart should also win. Otherwise, that relation or deal will not continue forever. Whoever tends to lose will walk out of the deal at one or the other point in life.


5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Now, think of all the times when we have said, "If only they understood what I was saying". Very surely, your counterpart must have said the same feeling.

"Seek First to Understand" involves a deep shift in our communication skills. Most of us do not listen to understand but we listen with the intent to reply. If someone tells us something, we assume that they want us to say something. But, most often, people first want the listener to understand what they are telling you.

Also, to achieve habit 4 i.e to come up with a Win/Win situation, we need to understand the counterpart and also strive to make ourself understood.  By first understanding what others are saying and feeling, we let them be in a open, non-defensive mood and it gets easy to make them understand our stance. Have any doubts ? Try once and you will see the results!

Principles of Creative Cooperation

6. Synergize

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts! The essence of synergy is to value the differences - the mental, the emotional and the psychological differernces - to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for the weaknesses. Synergy is the essence of principle-centered leadership! It is the essence of principle-centered parenting!

In your businesses or personal lives, rather than argue and fight about the differences, see for ways in which you can take advantages of the strengths that different people can get to the table.

When trust and cooperation are on high levels, synergy happens and a win/win situation occurs with happy results for all.

Renewal

7. Sharpen the Saw

There are four dimensions to our nature: the physical, the spiritual, the mental and the social/emotional. Organizations as well as individual effectiveness is completely dependent on the balanced renewal of all these aspects.

One should be physically fit to be able to achieve anything else in life. When we talk about spiritual, it is not necessary religion but it is about the principles that you believe in, and the time needed to remember and renew your soul. Sharpening the mental facilities involves reading, visualizing, planning and writing. Last but not the least is the social and emotional dimension. It involves service, empathy, synegy and intrinsic security.



I truly learned a lot by reading the book.  I would ask each of you to take time to read the book and when possible, refer it to keep the principles in active mode.

Thanks Stephen for the effort you put in this book and for sharing it for the millions around you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

When you thought I wasn't looking

"When you thought I wasn't looking,
You hung my first painting on the refrigerator,
And I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
You fed a stray cat,
And I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
You baked a birthday cake just for me,
And I knew that little things were special things.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
You said a prayer,
And I believed there was a God that I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
You kissed me goodnight,
And I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
And I learned that sometimes things hurt
But that it's alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
You smiled
And it made me want to look that pretty, too.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
You cared,
And I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked,
And wanted to say thanks
For all those things you did
When you thought I wasn't looking."



This poem was written by Mary Rita Schilke Korzan, in gratitude to her mother, Blanche Schilke.  She didn't thank her mom for the money she spent on her, for the presents she bought her, or for the advice she gave her.  She didn't thank her mother for sending her to the best schools or for making sure she had designer clothes.

But it's a poem that I think any parent would be grateful and happy to someday receive from a grown child.  May it remind us all that the example we set for our children by the way we live is our real message to them.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Navaratnas from King Vikramaditya's Court.

Have you heard of Navaratnas, the court of Samudragupta II or Vikramaditya. Here is an effort to list them all.


1. KALIDAS
Kalidas is one of the nine Ratnas in the court of king Vikramaditya and the famous one too. He is a great poet of Sanskrit.

He has written 3 famous plays and 4 epic poems. Plays are
1) Malavikaagnimitra ( Malavika and Agnimitra )
2) Veramorvashiya ( The story of Urvashi and Pururavas )
3) Abhigyanashakuntala ( Shakuntala )

This book is translated into many foreign languages, first into English and then to German apart from many Indian languages.

The four epic poems are:
1) Kumarasambhavam : The story of the marriage of Shiva with Parvati.
2) Raghuvamsha
3) Meghaduta

The fourth one is not known.

2. DHANVANTARI :
He was an early Indian medical practitioner and one of the first surgeons of this world. He is regarded as the source of Ayurveda. He found the antiseptic properties of turmeric and the preservative properties of salt. He is the pioneer of the plastic surgery. He performed the surgeries without anesthesia.

3. AMARA SIMHA :

He was a Sanskrit grammarian and poet. His famous works are AMARAKOSHAM meaning immortal treasure to immortal dictionary. Another one is NAMALINGANUSHASANA instructs about nouns and genders. It is a thesaurus of Sanskrit.

4. SHANKU :

Expert in geography.

5. KSHAPANAK :

Prominent astrologist who has achieved prominence in astrology.

6. GHAT KANPAR :

Expert in sculpture and architecture.

7. VETAL BHATT :

Expert in black magic and tantric sciences.

8. Varaha Mihir

He was Indian astronomer, Mathematician and Astrologer who lived in Ujjain. He made important contributions to Mathematics and also Astrology. His main work is Pancha Siddantika on Mathematical Astronomy. It is a compendium of Greek, Egypt, Roman and Indian astronomy. His next work is Brihat-Samhita. Also famous is his Brihat-Jataka.

9. Vararuchi

He was a poet and grammarian.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book Review - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

In the foreword itself I found something that made me read this book straight through. I found a mantra, used by an experienced runner of marathons, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” The essence of marathon running i.e. running marathons, not figuratively, but literally, is what Haruki Murakami has condensed into a modest book by capturing his thoughts as he prepares to run the New York City Marathon in November 2005. The book is labeled as memoir but does not fit the genre in the true sense. What we have instead is a collection of essays loosely arranged in chronological order from a one year period in the author’s life – from August 2005 to October 2006, centered around his running (and writing) life.

The author lives (and runs) in several exotic locations, from hometown Tokyo to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai to Cambridge, Massachusetts. We are briefly led through the essential details of his life as the owner of a bar/restaurant in Japan to the “Aha” moment during a game when he decides to become a novelist and then a runner at age 33. He modestly skims over the details of his early literary success which is followed by a decision to close the successful restaurant to give himself fully to his writing. Running is what he chooses in order to stay fit, to lose the weight he has gained (an unfortunate side effect of becoming a writer) after leaving the physically demanding restaurant business.

There are descriptions of various marathons he has participated in (more than 24, at the time of writing this book), at least one each year, including the original marathon named for the run from Athens to Marathon in Greece one summer. When asked about the qualities a writer must have, he talks about talent, which while essential is not everything (even the best car cannot run without fuel). But more important are focus and endurance, skills which can be developed and honed, like preparing the body for a long distance race. Murakami’s metaphors are simple and elegant.

He does no preach his philosophy or dwell upon the spiritual but shows through his own experience how any activity that is religiously followed leads to personal epiphanies. While running the grueling course of 62 miles for an ultramarathon in Lake Saroma, Hokkaido, he experiences what he terms “passing through”, a feeling of moving through, a peaceful passage through an unseen barrier after running 47 miles. The metaphysical experience of “I run, therefore I am.” On the other end of the spectrum, he also candidly talks about “Runner’s blues” a period of time when he is not inclined to go back to marathon running and switches instead to triathlon where he needs to master other activities such as swimming and biking.

In every chapter, there are honest descriptions of a regular guy, not famous novelist, trying to better himself physically, by taking on new challenges, competing with no one except perhaps an aging body. But even in those situations, there is a gracious acceptance of what is. The description of the much-awaited NYC marathon is anti-climactic. But the book ends with on optimistic view of setting a personal goal and giving it the best shot, trying to find a concrete lesson from all experiences. Murakami wants his gravestone to proclaim “Writer (and runner). At least he never walked.”

Can we hope for the same?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book review - Seeking Peace by Mary Pipher

When you pick up a book with a cover where the autho’sr name appears in a font size twice as large as the title, you know that the author MUST be famous. And so it was that I picked up Mary Pipher’s “Seeking Peace – Chronicles of the worst Buddhist in the world”. Following success of her earlier book titled “Reviving Ophelia – Saving the selves of adolescent girsl” first published in 1994, Mary Pipher’s quiet life in small town Nebraska gets into the fast lane. After years of book tours, speaking engagements, promotion for subsequent books, life as she knows it changes significantly. This book discusses her meltdown after achieving fame and recognition, which she terms “an avalanche of roses”, and her recovery thereafter.

The memoir describes Pipher’s early childhood experiences and traces her personal history as far back as the grandparents on each side of the family. As the eldest of four children, she talks about feeling responsible for the brood in the frequent periods where her parents were absent physically and/or emotionally. Her own adult life of escaping reality to find her true calling is candidly put forth. She finally finds equilibrium as a therapist in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband and children until the fateful success of “Reviving Ophelia”.

Through her easy writing style, we see the author as a driven woman who excels in multi-tasking, revels in responsibility for all those under her care, fills every minute of her day with tasks but is also afraid to disappoint others. We watch her go under as she finds it exceedingly difficult to cope with the constant and mounting pressures in the eight years from her first success to meltdown. Mary Pipher comes across as a genuine person, not a whiny celebrity who cannot find sympathy among all the others out there who long for the kind of success she witnesses in her late forties/fifties.

Mary Pipher recovers from her depression and misery using many techniques that she has prescribed to patients but also learns new coping mechanisms. From being a whirling dervish, she tries to meditate and understand Buddhism, she goes to yoga class, experiences the healing nature of massage, eats comfort foods, learns to laugh once more and finds support from family, both present and past. She learns to notice and then treasure “moments” which she describes as “discrete time, complete in themselves and utterly distinct from the habit-bound wave time in which we all live much of our lives. While minutes are earthbound and can be measured, moments both merge with eternal time and exist outside time altogether.”

I was drawn to the book from the first pages of the prelude itself. I could see myself in the paragraphs where Pipher describes her personality and tendency to maximize every experience by continuously seeking more. “Being a seeker is both a gift and burden”, she muses. “But the gift of seeking is growth”. And certainly this book has the potential to be an instrument for growth for all among us who have been seekers.

Book Review - The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermesiter

A flyer at the Issaquah library announced an evening with local writer, Erica Bauermeister, author of a recent novel “The School of Essential Ingredients” but I noticed that it was an old notice, probably forgotten by the library staff. The description about the theme of the novel was intriguing enough for me to look it up and I was thrilled to find a used copy marked down at the Half-Price Bookstore in the next town. I read the novel slowly, over almost two weeks and like the decadent recipes described in it, the taste and fragrance of story lingers with me a week later.

The author brings to life, eight memorable characters, students of the cooking class organized by Lillian, the master chef/owner of a fancy restaurant which bears her name. Lillian is the teacher, an expert at not just creating epicurean delights, but at knowing the link between food and its connection to the core of individuals. Lillian’s anything but ordinary childhood is described in careful detail, the prose rich with imagery, almost like a poem, as it introduces the origin of an unusual fascination with food and its preparation that logically translates into a highly successful restaurant business.

Monday nights when the group of students of mixed heritage and age groups, replete with their present demons and haunting pasts, assembles for the cooking class, the mystery of each character unfolds like the fragrances and flavors of the dishes they prepare. The author is careful with detail but never gives away everything, you are free to visualize the connections between the instances that give insights into each character and perhaps, an indication of their reason for being in the class. As expected, some stories intertwine and progress during the intervening periods.

The book contains recipes embedded in the chapters and in the dialog but does not read like Laura Esquivels’ “Like water for chocolate”, another wonderful book with food as its central theme. As Lillian says early on “The first question people ask me is what are the essential ingredients. I might as well tell you, there isn’t a list and I’ve never had one. Nor do I hand out recipes.”

Through the movement of the characters as they use the medium of food, cooking, and camaraderie, they unveil parts of themselves, some forgotten, some hard to forget, in a leisurely pace, guided gently but surely by their teacher and reach new heights. The book is a great read, not just for the story but its sheer poetic beauty. Just a warning; don’t rush, read it slowly and relish it completely. Only then will the flavor of a classic linger on your palate.

Monday, May 31, 2010

రాముడికి సీత ఏమవుతుంది

పుస్తక పరిచయము : రాముడికి సీత ఏమవుతుంది
రచయిత : ఆరుద్ర
వెల : యాభయి రూపాయలు

రాముడికి సీత ఏమవుతుంది? ఈ ప్రశ్నకి జవాబు అందరికి తెలుసు కాని చాలా దేశాలలో చాలా రామాయణాలు ఉన్నాయి వాటి గురించి తెలుసుకున్నాక ఈ ప్రశ్న ఎందుకు వచ్చింది అని తెలుస్తుంది.

మన దేశములో మన అందరికి తెలిసినది వాల్మీకి రామాయణము. దీనినే శ్రీ మద్రామాయణము అంటారు. ఇందులో ఆరు ఖండాలున్నాయి. మొత్తము ఇరువది నాలుగు వేల శ్లోకాలున్నాయి. మన ప్రాచీన భారత దేశానికీ చాలా దేశాలతో వర్తక వాణిజ్య సంభంధాలు ఉండేవి. అలా రామ కథ ఆసియా ఖండమంత అలుముకొంది. శ్రీలంక, టిబెట్, ఖోటాను, మంగోలియా, సైబీరియా, చైనా, జపాను, చంప, కంబోడియా,తైలాండ్, ఇండోనేసియా, మలేషియా, ఫిలిప్పీన్స్, బర్మా దేశాలలో రామాయణ గాధ చాలా ప్రాచుర్యములో ఉన్నది. ఈ కథలలో వాల్మీకి రామాయణములో లేని విషయాలు ఎన్నో ఉన్నాయి.

బౌధ రామాయణములో రాముడికి సీత చెల్లెలు. ఒక్క చెల్లెలే కాదు భార్య కూడా. ఖోటాను రామాయణములో రామలక్ష్మణులు ఇద్దరికీ భార్య. లావోసు రామాయణములో హనుమంతుడు రాముని కొడుకు. మలేషియా రామాయణములో మండోదరి దశరథుని పెద్ద భార్య. సీత రావణుని కూతురు. దశరథుని కొడుకు రావణాసురుని పుత్రికని పెళ్ళాడి రావణాసురుని చంపుతాడు. ఆ పుత్రిక పుత్రకామేష్టి లో పవిత్రమయిన ఒక అన్నము ముద్ద వల్ల పుట్టినదే. విద్దురలలాగా కనబడే ఈ విభిన్న రామాయణం కథలను శ్రధగా పరిశీలించాలి.

జైన రామాయణము ప్రకారము రామునికి నలుగురు భార్యలు. సీత, ప్రభావతి, రతినిభ, శ్రీరమ అని వాళ్ళ పేర్లు. లక్ష్మణునికి ఎనిమిదిమంది భార్యలున్నారు. బౌధ రామాయణము ప్రకారము దశరథుని పట్టపు రాణి ద్వారా ఇద్దరు కొడుకులు ఒక కూతురు పుట్టారు. వాళ్ళే రామ పండితుడు, లక్ష్మణ పండితుడు. కుమార్తె పేరు సీతాదేవి. ఇంకొక భార్య కొడుకు భరతుడు. దీనిలో ఆఖరున సీతాదేవిని, రామపండితుడు, లక్ష్మణ పండితుడు వివాహ మాడుతారు.

కాని మనకు ప్రామాణికము వాల్మికి రామాయణము మాత్రమే.

ఆసియా ఖండములోని వివిధ దేశాలలోని రామాయణాన్ని తెలుసుకోవాలంటే ఈ పుస్తకము చదవాలి.

Friday, May 28, 2010

పుస్తక పరిచయం : ద్రౌపది

రచయిత : ఆచార్య యార్లగడ్డ లక్ష్మీప్రసాద్
వెల : నూట ఇరువది రూపాయలు
ఈ పుస్తకము రచయిత కి దూషణ, భూషణ తిరస్కరాదుల్ని, ప్రసంసలని సంపాదించి పెట్టింది. సాహిత్య అకాడెమి పురస్కారాన్ని కూడా తెచ్చి పెట్టింది.

ఈ పుస్తకము మహాభారతము లోని ద్రౌపది పాత్ర చుట్టూ జరిగిన కథ. ఈ కథ లో కొన్ని వ్యాస భారతము లోని అంశాలు, కొన్ని వివిధ పుస్తకాల నుంచి తీసుకొన్నవి, కొన్ని రచయిత కల్పించుకొన్నవి కలిపి చెప్పారు. ద్రౌపదికి ఐయుదుగురు భర్తలు ఈ జన్మలో ఎందుకున్నారు? రచయిత చెప్పిన ప్రకారము ఆమె గత రెండు జన్మలలో కూడా కామేచ్చ తీరని స్త్రీ. దీనికి మూలము సంస్కృత భారతములోను, నన్నయ భారతములోను కూడా ఉన్నది. ఇంద్రసేన అనే పేరుతొ మౌద్గల్య మహర్షి భార్యగా గత జన్మ వృత్తాంతము ఇవ్వబడినది. మేరీ జన్మ లో కసి రాజు కుమార్తెగా జన్మించి వివాహము కానందున శివుని గురించి తపస్సు చేయగా ఆయన ప్రత్యక్షము అయినప్పుడు ఆమె అయిదు సార్లు భర్త ని ప్రసాదించమని తొందరలో అయిదు సార్లు అదిగినదట, శివుడు మెచ్చి అటులనే నీకు తరువాతి జన్మలో అయిదుగురు భర్తలు ఉంటారని వరమిచ్చినందున ఈ జన్మలో పాండవులకి భార్యగా పుట్టి తన కోరికలను తీర్చుకున్నది. ఇది కూడా మహాభారతములో చెప్పబడినది.

ద్రౌపది మహోన్నత వ్యక్తిత్వాన్ని, ఆత్మవిశ్వాసాన్ని, ఆమె సౌసీల్యాన్ని, కుమార్తెగా, సోదరిగా, భార్యగా, తల్లిగా, శ్రీకృష్ణుని సఖిగా, మహారాజ్నిగా, రాజనీతిజ్నురాలిగా, ఉత్తమ ఇల్లాలుగా, గృహిణిగ వివరించడమే తన ఉద్దేశ్యమని రచయిత అన్నారు. కాని, దాని కంటే ద్రౌపది తన అయిదుగురు భర్తలతో ఎలా కామేచ్చ తీర్చుకొన్నది చాల వివరముగా, అశ్లీల అంచుల దాక వివరించారు.

అసలు మహాభారత యుద్ధానికి కర్ణుడు, ద్రౌపదియే కారణమని వివరించారు. కుంతీదేవి చాలముందు గానే కర్ణుడు తన కొడుకు అని చెప్పిన యుధము జరిగేది కాదని రాసారు. ద్రౌపది పుట్టుక నించి మరణము దాక , సవివరముగా రాసారు. ద్రౌపది కోపాన్ని, తనకు అవమానము,నష్టము జరిగితే ఎలా పాండవుల ద్వార కౌరవుల మీద, అశ్వద్ధామ మీద, సైంధవుని మీద పగ తీర్చుకున్నదో చెప్పారు.

ఈ పుస్తకాన్ని ఎందరు ప్రసంసించారో అంతకన్నా ఎక్కువ మంది దూషించారు. అందువలననే ఇప్పటికి అయిదు ముద్రణలు జరిగాయి. పుస్తకాన్ని అలా విమర్శలు ద్వార బాగా మార్కెటింగ్ చేసారు.

కాని ఎలా ఉన్నా ఇది కొని తప్పక చదవవలసిన పుస్తకము.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Romeo and Juliet - Love Saga by William Shakespeare

CHARACTERS:

Capulets, Montagues : Two chief families of Verona at war

Romeo : Son to the old lord of Montagues

Rosaline : Beloved of Romeo

Benvolio : Friend of Romeo

Mercutio : Another friend of Romeo

Tybalt : A nephew of lord Capulet

Juliet : Daughter and heir to lord Capulet

Lawrence : Friar to a monastery

count Paris : The groom fixed for Juliet by her father

The two chief families of Verona , the rich Capulets and Montagues are at quarrel with each other. Their enmity is so severe even if servants of the two families cross each other on the road, they will fight with swords. Old lord Capulet once gave a great supper to which many fair ladies and noble guests are invited except Montagues. Rosaline, beloved of Romeo, but who does not love Romeo also attended. Benvolio, a friend of Romeo persuaded Romeo to attend the party with masks so that they cannot be recognized. The plan is for Romeo to see many ladies more beautiful than Rosaline.so that he will forget her.

To this feast of Capulets, Romeo with his friends Benvolio and Mercutio has attended wearing masks. Old Copulet invited them and asked them to dance with ladies. Romeo was struck with the exceeding beauty of a lady who danced there and praised her. Tybalt, the nephew of lord Capulet has recognized Romeo by voice and could have killed but for the Capulet coming in between. That lady is Juliet the daughter of lord Capulet. Romeo has fallen in love and Juliet also loved him for his good manners, looks and such features.

While returning from the party, Romeo without informing his friends, leaped the wall of an orchard and entered Juliet's house and hid below the room of Juliet. Juliet not knowing that Romeo is below came out of the house and said openly to herself that she is in love with Romeo and how good it would be had he not been from Montagues. O Romeo, Romeo ! said she, where art thou Romeo, Deny thy father, and refuse thy name, for my sake; or if thou wilt not, be but my sworn love, and I no longer will be a Capulet. Hearing these words Romeo came to know that Juliet also is loving him as he is loving her. He came out of the bush and both Romeo and Juliet found that they love each other very fondly even though they are from two families are almost at war with each other They have decided to get married the next day itself.

Romeo has met the friar in the monastery and requested him to get his marriage performed with Juliet. The good friar Lawrence thinking that with this marriage both the families will become friends has agreed. The next day friar performed the marriage of Romeo with Juliet. Juliet returned to her home. When Romeo with his two friends is returning , Tybalt has met them and picked up a quarrel. Against the good counseling of Romeo, his friend Mercutio and Tybalt drew their swords and fought. In the fight Tybalt killed Mercutio and challenged Romeo.

Against all his efforts to avoid the fight as he is now married to a Copulet, Romeo was forced to fight and in the fight Tybalt was got killed. The lords of both the families and the Duke himself have come there. The Duke became very angry and banished Romeo from Verona. Romeo felt that it is a death sentence to move out of Verona and not able to see his beloved Juliet. First Juliet felt angry,but later realized that if Tybalt is not slain, he would have killed Romeo. Lawrence has asked Romeo to go and stay in Mantua , for some time and he will inform about their marriage and talk reason to them, and see that Romeo returns back to Verona and live happily with his love Juliet.

But the next day lord Copulet has proposed the marriage of Juliet with count Paris a gallant, noble and young gentleman, a worthy suitor to Juliet if she had not seen Romeo. Juliet met Lawrence and told that she will die taking poison rather than marrying Count Paris forgetting Romeo. Lawrence asked her to be patient and have confidence in him and gave a potion asking her to drink before going to the bed. With its effect, she will go cold and become as if dead for next 42 hours. She agreed for it. Lawrence said he will send the message to Romeo and her Romeo will come before she regains her consciousness and take her to Mantua .

Going back she met the young count Paris and informed that she will become his bride. Her father lord Copulet also felt very pleased and once again Juliet became her darling daughter. On Wednesday night, Juliet drank off the potion. Next morning when count Paris came to pick her up, he came to know that she is dead. The entire house is in deep sorrow , and marriage arrangement turned out to be her funeral arrangements. She was buried in the vaults of Copulets, nearer to the corpse of Tybalt.

Bad news always travels faster than good, news brought the dismal story of his Juliet’s death to Romeo at Mantua, before the messenger sent by Lawrence has arrived appraising him of the mock funerals and his dear lady will be in the tomb for a short while, expecting when her Romeo will come and release her from the dreary mansion. Romeo purchased poison and returned to Verona at midnight and started to break open the monument. At that time count Paris came to the tomb to stew flowers and thought Romeo being a Montague has come to do some mischief. Romeo urged Paris to leave him. But a duel has started and Romeo has slain Paris in the fight. The page of Paris ran to inform to lord of Copulet about the fight. He took the body of Paris into the tomb to bury along with Juliet.

Here Romeo took the last leave of his lady and drank the poison he brought from Mantua and lay dead near Juliet. As the time of Juliet to get up has come , the friar Lawrence has come to take her to his home and was astonished to see the corpse of Romeo lying there. Before he could understand what has happened Juliet awoke out of her trance and asked the friar for her Romeo. Meanwhile voices have come indicating that many people are coming and out of fear Lawrence has run away. Seeing Romeo dead with a cup in hand , Juliet realized that he has died of poison and she with her dagger stabbed herself and lay dead by the side of Romeo.

Copulets and Montagues have arrived and the prince also came knowing about the commotion. Somebody has caught Lawrence and brought him. Asked by the prince, Lawrence has informed about the marriage of Romeo and Juliet, and the magic potion and all. After seeing the letters in the pocket of Romeo every one believed the facts told by Lawrence. The prince, turning to these old lords , rebuked them for their brutal and irrational enmities, and showed what tragedy occurred because of them. These old rivals agreed to bury their rivalry and be friends. But had they became friends before the young lives of Romeo and Juliet would have been saved.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

Characters:

Syracuse, Ephesus : Two states at variance.

Epidamnum : Another place

Aegeon : Merchant of Syracuse found wandering in Ephesus

Corinth : another place

Antipholus : twin sons of Aegeon

Dromio : twin sons of the slave

duke Menaphor : uncle of duke of Ephesus

Adriana : wife of elder Antipholus

Luciana : sister of Adriana

Two states of Syracuse and Ephesus are at variance. There is a law in Ephesus that if any merchant of Syracuse is found in their state he was to be put to death or pay a thousand marks to save his life. Aegeon , an old merchant of Syracuse is found in Ephesus and brought before the duke for death sentence as Aegeon has no money to pay the fine of 1000 marks. The duke asked him to tell his story why he came to Ephesus even daring death if found.

Aegeon said that he is born in Syracuse and a merchant. H e is married to a very good lady. On the purpose of business, he went to Epidamnum for six months and as his stay is to be extended he called his wife to him. She gave birth to two identical twins both of whom are named Antipholus. Their slave lady also gave birth to two identical twins named Dromio. It is impossible to distinguish between the twins. As his wife asked to return to their native place, Aegeon has boarded the ship with his twin sons and twin sons of the slave to become slaves to his sons.

Suddenly, a dreadful storm broke. Aegeon has tied his younger son and the younger slave to the wooden mast and tied himself to the same. Before that, he tied his wife, elder twin and the elder slave to another wooden mast. The ship broke into two and both Aegeon and his wife are separated. He has seen that fishermen of Corinth have saved his wife and children . He himself also is saved by another ship and brought to Syracuse.

After eighteen years, his youngest son (Antipholus of Syracuse) with the permission of his father, accompanied by his slave went to other places in search of his mother and his identical twin but has not returned even after seven years. Hence Aegeon himself is touring in search of his both sons, wife and the attendants. In search of them only he entered Ephesus as he no longer cares for his life. Thus Aegeon told his story to the duke. The duke said he pities him but the law cannot be changed but if anyone pays the fine of 1000 marks today he will be set free.

Aegeon does not know that both his sons and the twin attendants are in Ephesus at the same time. His younger son Antipholus of Syracuse with his attendant Dromio entered Ephesus in search of his brother. As one of his friends informed him that any one from Syracuse will be put to death he disguised as a business man from Epidamnum. The eldest son (Antipolous of Ephesus) has lived for twenty years in Ephesus and became rich. The fishermen who saved him has sold him and his attendant to Duke of Menaphon who is the uncle of duke of Ephesus. Thus Aegeon, his two identical twin sons and the two identical attendants are in Ephesus at the same time to raise to comedy of errors.

The duke of Ephesus likes Antipholus and made him an officer in his army and once he saved the life of duke. Satisfied with this, the Duke married Antipholus to a rich lady Adriana.

The younger son (Antipholus of Syracuse) gave some money to Dromio and sent him to inn for arranging for the dinner. While he is thinking about how to find his brother, Dromio (as he thought) returned and asked him to come to the house for dinner as his mistress is waiting. What mistress asked Antipholus, Dromio replied your mistress, sir. Now, Antipholus having lost all patience beat Dromio as he does not know that he is not his attendant but of his elder brother. Dromio went to Adriana and reported the same and went out. Adriana went to the inn with anger and made the younger Antipholus and his attendant Dromio to come to the house and have dinner. During dinner, he is surprised to know that she is his wife and she has not agreed for his protests as the twins look alike. In the kitchen, Dromio also is surprised that the helper there called him as her husband.

When they are taking dinner behind the closed doors, the actual Antipholus and Dromio came home for dinner but the servants sent them away without even opening the door as Adriana instructed them not to disturb her as she is having dinner with her husband. After dinner, by some pretext Antipholus of Syracuse came out of the house and a goldsmith met him and gave a gold chain thinking him to be the Antipholus of Ephesus even without taking money. As the gold smith owes some money to another man and he has reported to an officer for the recovery, the officer arrested the goldsmith and asked for the money. Meanwhile, the original Antipholus came that way. The gold smith asked him to give the money for the gold chain but Antipholus of Ephesus informed that he has not taken any chain. Hence the officer has arrested the goldsmith and Antipholus of Ephesus also on the complaint of goldsmith. At that time, Dromio of Syracuse , his brother's slave has come there. He has asked Dromio to go home and get the money asking his wife thinking that he is his slave. Adriana gave money and sent Dromio.

Antipholus of Syracuse is walking in the streets. As Antipholus of Ephesus is well known in the city, everyone saluted his younger brother, some offered to return the money he gave to them, the tailor has shown the silks he has ordered and asked for the measurements to stitch, some invited him to come and see, some thanked him for the kindness he shown to him thinking him for his brother. His attendant Dromio came and asked him how the officer has released him and shown the money he brought from Adriana.

Another strange lady has come to him and asked him for the gold chain he has promised at dinner the other day. Younger Antipholus said that he has never seen her. She too mistook this man to be the married Antipholus. When he denied having seen her, she went to Adriana and told her that her husband has become lunatic. At that time, the husband of Adriana came with the jailor, given the money to him and became freed. When he and Dromio said that the money is not given to them , Adriana believed that her husband became mad and with the help of others confined him to a room and locked it.

After some time a servant came and told her that they escaped and are seen on the street near a convent. Adriana went there to fetch her husband. Seeing her, Antipholus of Syracuse ran into the convent and asked for protection of the abbess of the convent. Adriana has asked the abbess of the convent to handover her husband to her, who is lunatic and escaped the confinement. The lady abbess has refused to handover him.

Meanwhile, time has come for the death sentence of Aegeone. As the place is nearer to the convent, Aegeone is brought nearer to the convent and the Duke also came to oversee. Meanwhile, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus came there escaping the confinement Adriana has put them in. Antipholus of Syracuse came out of the convent with his attendant. The duke of Ephesus, Adriana, Aegeone and all others are surprised to see both the twins. Then the duke recognized them to be the sons of Aegeone who told his story in the morning and all are united. Another surprise is that abbess of the convent is none other than the wife of Aegeone and the mother of Antipholus.

Antipholus of Ephesus offered to pay the fine of 1000 marks for the release of his father. But, the Duke has said that he is waiving the fine. Thus the comedy of errors ended on a very happy note.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Merchant of Venice - Happy Story by Shakespeare!

Characters:
Shylock, the Jew                    :   Money lender and very cruel man in Venice
Antonio                                  :   Merchant of Venice , a very kind hearted man
Bassanio                                :   A good friend of Antonio
Portia                                     :   A rich heiress , lives in Belmont
Gratiano                                 :
Nerissa                                  :    waiting maid of Portia
 Bellario                                 :    Counsellor
Lorenzo                                  :   Son in law of Shylock
Balthasar                               :     Name of Portia when she acted as a male counsellor in disguise

                   Shylock,the Jew lived in Venice. He does money lending business and amassed an immense fortune. Shylock exacted his money with such severity that every one disliked him. Antonio is a merchant of Venice, a very kind hearted man, lends money to the people who are in distress and takes no interest. He is very kind, beloved by all the citizens. Hence he is much disliked by Shylock who secretly meditated to take revenge on Antonio.

                   Bassanio, a noble venetian is a good friend of Antonio. Bassanio has nearly spent all the money received from his parents. Antonio, being a friend assisted him with money whenever he needed. One day Bassanio told Antonio, that he loved one lady who has inherited large fortune from her father who has died recently and that he wants to marry her. But has no money to approach her properly, in good dress and to give good presents and he needs 3000 ducats for that. Antonio has no money with him at that time but as he is expecting his ships to arrive in short time. He told Bassanio that he will take loan from Shylock and give him.

                  Both of them approached Shylock and Antonio asked for a loan of 3000 ducats. Shylock thought this is the correct occasion when he can take revenge on Antonio. Shylock is ready to lend the money without interest if Antonio enters into a bond that if he did not repay the money by a certain day, he would forfeit a pound of flesh, to be cut off from any part of his body that Shylock pleased. Though Bassanio objects to this condition, Antonio thinking that his ships will return by that day enters into the bond.

                  Bassanio with this money went to Belmont with lot of followers and attended by a gentleman called Gratiano. Bassanio confessed to Portia that he had no fortune but a noble ancestry and a high birth. Portia says that she got a lot of fortune and wants a good hearted, noble man like Bassanio and agrees to marry him and gives a ring as present. Bassanio vowed never to part with it. Gratiano and Nerissa, the lady in waiting of Portia also wants to marry. Portia has agreed for their marriage.

                  At that moment, a messenger has come with a letter from Antonio, saying that all his ships were lost, his bond to Shylock is forfeited, he has to die as Shylock takes the flesh and wanted Bassanio to be by his side at that time.

                 Bassanio explained to Portia that his friend Antonio at the cost of life has lent him the money and he is now to die as he has not repaid within time. Portia sends Bassanio to Venice by giving lots of money and asks to plead with Shylock to take whatever money he wants and release Antonio. Portia immediately married Bassanio saying that the marriage will give lawful right to him on the properties of Portia.  After Bassanio has left, Portia thinks to go to Venice with her maid. She takes the advise of her friend, Bellario a good counselor and reaches Venice in a male counselor clothes on the day of the trial.

                 The cause was just going to be heard before the duke of Venice and senators in the senate. Portia in disguise  as a male counselor is defending Antonio. She told Shylock that he has got every right as per law of Venice to execute the bond but requested him to show mercy and take instead whatever money he wants . Shylock only answered her by desiring to have the penalty forfeited in the bond. Bassanio offered to take payment as many times as the Jew wanted. Portia said that laws once established must never be altered.  Portia said to Shylock a pound of Antonio's flesh is thine. The law allows it, and the court awards it. You get ready to cut the pound of flesh from his breast. When Shylock is ready with his knife, Portia said , this bond here gives you no drop of blood: the words expressly are a pound of flesh, not a pinch extra nor less. If a drop of blood comes, your lands and goods are by law to be confiscated to the state of Venice. Shylock having defeated in his foul act agreed to take the money. Portia again said Jew, by the laws of Venice your wealth is forfeited to the state, for having conspired against the life of one of its citizens and your life lies at the mercy of duke.

                   The duke proclaimed that he is pardoning his life but half his wealth goes to Antonio and other half comes to the state. Antonio said that he will give up his half share if Shylock promises to give that to his daughter who married Lorenzo against his wish. Shylock agreed. The court is closed. The duke offered the young counselor to have dinner with him, but she politely refused as she wanted to reach Belmont before Bassanio. As per the advise of the duke, Bassanio offered Portia 3000 ducats or more. But she has not accepted but asked him to give the ring that he is wearing. As Bassanio has promised to Portia not to part with the ring at any cost, he asked to take any thing but the ring. But she does not agree. Hence on the word of Antonio, he gives the ring to Portia who is in the disguise of young counselor. Nerissa who also gave her ring to Gratiano asked for it and he gave it to her.

                   After returning to their home, Portia and Nerissa waited for Antonio and Bassanio. When they returned during discussions Nerissa asked Gratiano for the ring and as he said that he gave it to the clerk , Portia asked Bassanio for the ring and he said that he gave it to the young counselor.  Portia, hearing this seemed very angry , and reproached Bassanio for giving away the ring. After reproaching Bassanio for some time she gave the ring to him and Bassanio recognized it and Portia that she is the young counselor and Nerissa her clerk. Meanwhile it has come to be known that the ships of Antonio were not lost but have reached the port safely and he again became very rich.

                   Thus the drama of Merchant of Venice ended on a very happy note.