Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book review - The Men Within



I am not sure whether it is the current IPL fever or the fact that I had been picking up really boring non-fiction books to read or just the plain heat of Hyderabad summer that made me take up “The Men Within” for my night-time reading. I had received a copy, autographed by the author, Harimohan Paruvu who is now a friend and mentor. Although I had the book at home, I did not start reading it right away. Perhaps it was the tagline – “a cricketing tale”. I am not particularly a cricket buff (or any other sport for that matter) but had enjoyed Hari’s second novel “If you love someone…” I had also fortunately attended his workshop “The Champion’s Mindset” which is derived from this book. I was not expecting much but I was completely taken by surprise.

“The Men Within” unlike the name suggests is not about manly obsessions (other than the obvious one with cricket). It is the story of a school cricket team and how it finds its way to the prestigious interschool championship finals. Through the interactions between memorable characters like the trusting coach, supportive teachers, and a visionary Principal, we see the emergence of champions in the group of young boys hailing from different walks of life, classes of society and religious affiliations. The coach is the influential catalyst who channels the diffuse energies of the assorted group towards the pursuit of a common goal, in his typical understated manner. The transformation of boys into men when the situation demands brings about far greater change in their life and that of the greater community to which they belong.

The strength of the book lies in the authentic dialog among the boys, typical teenagers distracted by girls, ipods and mobile phones. The banter is generously laced with humor. A classic example is the description of the state of the team members on the first day of their fitness training after they have run four rounds of the school grounds - “Varun staggered dangerously at the beginning of the fifth round. Ashish trotted at a pace that conveyed no movement to the naked eye and Kartik breathed heavily through his mouth.

While it is a classic underdog story, it is told with great skill. I eagerly turned the pages of each chapter, curious about what happens next. Hari gives us glimpses into the winning formula that is the secret of champions through a simple story. I particularly liked the way the team, once united, learns lessons from all whom they come across, whether it is the driver of the school bus, or the loyal groundsman, Jani Miya and apply it diligently to improve their performance.

I whole-heartedly recommend this book, to students, boys and girls, men and women, who may or may not be interested in cricket but would like to read a feel good book. I am sure it will work wonders when communicating important lessons about teamwork, striving for excellence, planning and implementing strategies for success, whether it is to corporate employees or sullen teenagers in your home. “The Men Within” is not just an easy read but an unforgettable one.

More information is available at www.harimohan.com

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chance to meet "Yandamoori"

As you all know by now, we conduct monthly meet the author events. The purpose of the "meet the author" sessions is to know the author in person, try to understand their train of thought, bring the author's "book to life" by knowing how the book came about and what goes behind the scene and a whole lot more.

For the same, we wanted to approach Yandamoori Veerendranath. (I am sure I do not have to explain why him.) Concerned if we would even be able to find his contact information, casually did a simple google search and to my surprise, every bit of information was on his site including the phone number, email address and home address even. With some apprehension as to if I will be able to reach the person, I dialed his number.

Here goes the dialogs:

On the phone: Hello
EveningHour: Who is this ?
On the phone: Veerendranath!

Since I expected some secretary or PRO to attend to the phone, I asked "who's this" :(

Nevertheless, after a brief talk explaining him the purpose of calling him, I asked permission to meet him in person for further discussion on EveningHour and the meet the author sessions. Again, to my pleasant surprise, he agreed and asked me if I can come the same evening as he is leaving today elsewhere. All excited, I readily agreed.

Evening:

Nervously, we went and met the famous Yandamoori Veerendranath! Such a down to earth person! With all his busy schedules, he asked how EveningHour is doing, gave some suggestions and while we were there, talked to few other people to get us more information and contacts.

He did receive many a calls during the time we were in his office cum home. He answered all of them happily with no appearance of frustration or haughtiness. And if he had to say no to something, he said it simply and straightforward. Impressive personality!

While he was attending a phone call, I searched through his book shelf to see what sort of books he reads - he had a varied collection from Sri Maha Bhagavatam, Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to Paulo Coehlo's Alchemist and Winner Stands Alone.

Overall, it was a great evening and happy ending! Yandamoori Veerendranath garu had agreed to come to EveningHour in June! Become a new member, refer a new member or buy Telugu books worth Rs.300 from EveningHour to get the invite to this "invite-only" meet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Launch of "Brothers at War" by Alex Rutherford

I got an invite on Wednesday for the book launch of "Brother at War" by Alex Rutherford. Even though it was a last minute invite, I changed my plans to go there as I was curious to meet the author, meet the other book lovers and I also wanted to know how others conduct the book launches and author meets. I had no idea what  the book was about or who the author was.

It was a pleasant evening but with the traffic in the city, I drove through the entire city before I reached the venue. Taking a deep breath, I decided to leave the traffic frustrations in the car itself and set my mind to have a great evening.

Here comes the first surprise of the evening: There were two authors on the dais instead of one "Alex Rutherford". I came to know that "Alex Rutherford" is actually one pen name for two authors who are actually a married couple - Diana Preston and  Michael Preston.  Wow! During the Q/A session, one lady has asked why they decided the name and also why only one name and not two. The reason they chose one name is because after several years of writing together, their writing style has sort of become "one". "Alex" was chosen for the simple reason that "Alex" is one name that is used for both the genders. Rutherford is because Michael is from Scottish descent and wanted the last name to represent it and their publisher liked Rutherford over the other options. Interesting way to choose a name, isn't it!


"Brothers at War" is the second book in their series of Moghul Emperors. The first book "Empire of the Moghul : Raiders from the North" was a great success. They plan to have 7 books in this series. Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan,  Babar, Akbar, Aurangazeb and the whole lot of Moghul Emperors will be written about in their series.

All in all, it was a very interesting and impressive meet. We should all take effort to go to such events whenever they are being organized.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is it necessary for us to know our roots ?

In our book store we have many books on many subjects. There is one book about Freedoms of India by Subhadra Sen Gupta. I believe that every Indian should know about the history of their country. How many of the present generation know about the freedom struggle and the names of the freedom fighters? Is it necessary to know that? Within 63 years of Independence people have forgotten them. Of course they only know about Nehru family and Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar. But that's just a few.

In our school days, Indian history subject is there and we read and came to know about Sri Krishna Devaraya , Chola Kings , Pallava Kings etc., May be because Sri Krishna Devaraya became very famous, we remember him. Is it necessary to know about them? Why should we know from which family you came , and what are your roots? What were the names of your father , his father and his father etc and similarly on mother side.

I have worked as a General Manager in some private company after retirement from the regular service. I have to interview engineers for recruitment. I used to ask the fresh engineers just out of the college a general question , " How is Rajiv Gandhi related to Mahatma Gandhi " and believe me no one could give the correct answer. Some even ventured to say he is the great grand son of Mahatma Gandhi or somethings like that. Of course the right answer is not relevant to his job. People do remember the names of the freedom fighters whose children are still in politics or some famous names like Nehru family , Mahatma , Ambedkar , Bose etc may be not more than a dozen names.

Similarly why should one know about his religion? As a Hindu, I follow all customs , enjoy festivals , go to temple on festival days and such. But during my recent train journey, it happened that two men of other religion traveled with me and a friendly discussion rose about the religions. I am unable to answer some of the questions. Why did it happen like that?

These are all and some more thoughts crisscross my mind. Just I am putting them on paper.

1) Is it necessary for us to know about the history of our country?
2) Is it necessary to remember people who laid down their lives to get the independence?
3) I find many books written by foreign authors about the Indian history which generally I feel is written to suit their thinking.
4) why should any one know about his roots or his family history?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Unusual evening

Yesterday, Priyanka reminded me to join her for the “Meet the author” session. Since I did not have any plans for 6.30 p.m., with my daughter, Aparna at a birthday party, I agreed. I had missed the previous author meet and wanted to be part of this one. My father had not been to Evening Hour, though he had met Priyanka before and I asked him to tag along for the session. It was only after we got there did we realize that the guest author was a Telugu author. My Dad and I both are not native speakers of the language and though I have a decent grasp of Telugu (more of the talk to the maid and driver variety), he is quite lost in Telugu conversations. I thought it was a mistake to show up without finding out the details.

The author, Akella Raghavendra, has written a book about the late Telugu cine actor, Shobhan Babu. He has used to illustrate, through the life of a well-known public figure, lessons for life. My Raghavendra, unlike many authors, is also a gifted speaker, not surprising since he also runs coaching classes for IAS aspirants among other interests. There were many useful points that he made during the freewheeling discussion among the cozy circle that had gathered. He gave examples to emphasize that talents, skills and selling ability are required in equal measure in order to succeed in life. Probably the most notable point he underscored was the importance of developing a reading habit in the lives of youngsters. Fiction, non-fiction, English, Telugu, classics or contemporary writing did not matter. What was required was a mind that was curious to read what others before them had thought, experienced and expressed on paper.

We spent a riveting two hours in the presence of an enthusiastic and knowledgeable author with a drive to communicate his thoughts to the audience, both verbally and through his writings. To my surprise, even my father joined in the discussion. It was one of those days, when we thought we had unwittingly wandered into a wrong place but in retrospect, concluded that we were lucky to have made this mistake.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Summer Reading!

Summer's finally here! The drenching exams are over for most and every one is excited for the summer break! While the kids are excited, the parents are looking at ways to educate and entertain their kids. Hunt is on for summer schools, arts and craft classes, music or any other art through which the kids get to do something different than the rest of the year. While all these are quite good, Summer Reading should take the highest priority as it will help the child unfold unknown territories while also keeping the child stay indoors when the sun is scorching.

While reading is fun, reading just about anything will not do justice to it. It is a challenging task for the parent or the child to pick the books with the right ingredients of fun and information. EveningHour did some research on books for children and has the following recommendations for children 8 years and above.

Series

1.Enid Blyton Series
2.Magic School Bus Series
3.Magic tree House Series
4.Ruskin Bond Short Stories
5.Roald Dahl Series
 
Titles
Charlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteStuart Little by E.B. White
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
I, Robot (The Robot Series), by Isaac Asimov.
All Enid Blyton books
Harry Potter Series
Horowitz: Alex Rider Adventure series
Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 
 Summer is also the time to introduce classics to the children.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Alice's adventures in Wonderland
Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a horse
A Christmas Carol
Around the world in Eighty Days
Little Women
Peter Pan
The Arabian Nights
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

In addition to fiction stories, it is absolutely necessary to introduce great personalities and also habits to the children to get them inspired to achieve something great and substantial.

Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teen
Biographies and Auto-biographies of important people from various fields.

This is only a subset to start with. We will keep them coming and we hope you keep on reading!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book review - Goodnight and God Bless by Anita Nair

Bed-time reading is something I look forward to at the end of each day; a calm way to relax before settling down into a comfortable bed to recover from the stresses of the day. Anita Nair’s “Goodnight and God Bless” begins the same way. She describes her bedtime ritual of drinking a warm cup of malted milk and introduces readers to the books by her bedside.

Anita Nair is a well-known Indian novelist, having met critical success with “Ladies Coupe” followed by the more recent “Mistress”. Currently, her newly released novel “Lessons in Forgiving” is conspicuously placed in most bookstores. But this book (Good night…) is different. It is a collection of essays by Nair, many of which have appeared previously in various newspapers and magazines.

On a personal note, essays are my favorite form of writing. And in the hands of an accomplished writer like Nair, even the mundane gets elevated to exquisite literature. She displays witty humor when she relives her days in an advertising agency, which is believes is not just a good training ground for wannabe writers, but should be made mandatory. About her last day in advertising she muses “… never have to attend a meeting where clients, even if their chances of being knighted was one in a million, have to be addressed as “Sir”. Never again would I have to hear about paradigm shifts; I still don’t know what a paradigm is or why for some strange reason it is always shifting”. She is sensitive in her observations about her father and brother and shows the temperamental relationship with her mother in other chapters. Perhaps the most humane side of her comes across in the essay where she analyzes her penchant for attending all the book launches that she is invited to, “to show solidarity and to swell the numbers because I know how much of a heartache it causes when you invite people for a reading and only a handful, or worse, no one show up”.

At other points she describes her travel to foreign lands, train journeys, her village in Kerala and shares deep insights into the motivation and hard work behind writing novels. The essays are crisp and honest, without being preachy. They display the author in an intimate setting, something fiction novels seldom do.

Inside its hardbound cover with a pleasant cover design, this tiny book (measures less than my handspan) is impeccably edited and contains true gems of observations, written in Anita Nair’s inimitable style. A genuine pleasure to read and to own.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

James A. Michener

James Michener is a classic example that irrespective of the conditions in which one is born, one can make a worthy place in this world!

James Michener wrote more than 40 novels and his novels sold an estimated 75 million copies worldwide. His first novel was written when he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He said in one of his interviews, 'To while away the time in the afternoon, he drafted the outlines of ''some stories that disturbed me.'' At night he turned the outlines into the short stories that became ''Tales of the South Pacific,'' published in 1947.' This book later became the basis for the Broadway and film musical South Pacific. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948.

Following this, he wrote several novels. The majority of his novels cover the lives of many generations of a particular geographical area, and even incorporates historical data into the story. He actually moved to those cities where his story would be based upon.  For the same reason, he moved to Texas, Maryland, Hawaii and even Alaska.

Michener gave away or donated lots of money to aspirant writers, libraries, universities, museums and the like.

Truly, a person to know about, learn from and follow. And all his novels are master pieces!

For more information on James A. Michener:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_A._Michener

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/17/books/james-michener-author-of-novels-that-sweep-through-the-history-of-places-is-dead.html?scp=1&sq=James%20Michener&st=cse&pagewanted=1

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sita from Ramayanam!

Have you ever contemplated on Sita from our epic Ramayanam! Watched Ramayanam and Lava Kusa movies several tens of times recently and it got me to thinking - Rama and Sita have always been portrayed as the ideal couple.One would have heard it from a lot of family particularly at the marriages - One has to be like Rama and Sita. But is that applicable in today's world ? Since I am no authority in this topic, I did some search on Sita and found the following article on the web which explains how we should understand Sita and her role in today's world! There were of course several hundreds of articles but most of them were either too far-fetched or just re-told the story in their own words.

Peruse this article at your leisure

1. From Sitayanam : http://sites.google.com/a/sitayanam.com/www/