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.