29 April 2017

Love in the times of Pokemon - Reader turns Author

Anurag is a self-published author and have recently published his debut book of poetry called: Love in the time of Pokemon: Poems about love, loneliness, and other funny things. 


He approached storywala and here is an excerpt from his reading journey, library, and his favourite genres and books. Honestly, I have not read his book, still introducing a fellow reader turned author. Read at your own will! 

Which was the first book you remember reading?  

The first book I read was Sigmund Freud’s  Interpretation of the dream during my engineering college days. I was fascinated and puzzled by dreams and wanted to understand more about the symbolism of (un)consciousness. I finished the book in 5 days and was quite amazed by its content. Though, I now like Carl Jung's theories more than Freud's.

Which is your favorite poet and why?

Charles Bukowski is the one. He deals with contemporary life. About streets, about loneliness, about ache, about boredom; which all comes from his personal experience of the harshness of life. But the tone of his books was never melodramatic and rather follow a certain rhythm of storytelling structure. In spite all such themes, his outlook towards life was never hopeless and he had the great ability to incorporate humor in poems which made his poem appear as a celebration of life in all its absurdities. 

Which is your favorite book and how did you get to read it?

There are many favorites according to the emotional state I have been into. Recently I’ve read short stories by relatively unknown Hindi write Rajkamal Choudhary which I found inside a very old library of Rajasthan. I was hooked on this book for many days because of Rajkamal’s masterful style of writing about the dark side of urban realities.The genius of Rajakamal has always been underappreciated in the Hindi literature history because of his indifference to become a part of the coterie of other dull elite Hindi writers and influencers. 

Tell us about your personal library at home? 

Most of the Paperbacks are from the time when I was in college because now I prefer ebooks. It consists of lot many of existentialist authors who were my favorite during teenage years: Albert Camus, Sartre, Herman Hesse, Nietzsche. Italian novelist Alberto Moravia's books are there as well whom I find intriguing. Also books by John Fante, Dostoevsky, Julio Cortázar, Manohar Shyam Joshi, among various others. 

How did you arrive at the idea of writing the book?

I am writing short stories and poems since 6-7 years.  After writing anything I used to mail my poems to 3-4 friends of mine. That was the tiny audience I had for my poems. Recently when I had sufficient numbers of poems and was confident enough about the merits of them I decided to convert into the book and publish. 

Finally, you say you are a poet, now create an original short poem for the readers! 

This one a small excerpt from a long poem titled' Love and Mosquitoes' from my book love in the time of Pokemon. 

Love and Mosquitoes 

whenever you are with me I feel like

I am high on coffee

or on some substance

which even kings crave for.

Is it the room purifier

or the smell of herbal mosquito repellent

applied on my leg

or the smell of perfume

applied on your body;

Reading Lolita in Tehran - a statement, a story, a reality not a book Review

Book: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Author: Azar Nafisi
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) a very rare rating for a book 

There are so many freedoms we take for granted, like reading a book called Loilta in a city called Tehran. 

Very rarely a book is written about books, the words of a reader. And very rarely a book which has Titilated generations, ends up becoming such a strong social statement. This is what Lolita in Tehran aims to be, a statement of an underground revolution of few burqa clad women, who by reading this book are revolting against the tenets of their society and country. 

The book title summarises the gist of the story. It is about reading Nobokov's famous Book Lolita in Tehran. A country seeped in conservative Islamic culture bans Lolita, a book depicting the erotic renderings of a paedophile. The same country where 9 year old girls are herded like cattle and married to old lusty men. An irony indeed, a scandalous  reality hidden behind the garb of being a bad influence on its women and men. Interestingly, most books with modern independent heroine protagonists are banned and considered un- Islamic. 

I don't consider myself an expert on religion or literature but a society which does not allow independent thinking is bound to be regressive. That is what is happening to Iran which is going back to the older ways rather than moving forward. The cultural, social and religious tyranny, restricts day to day living and thinking. Leaving no other options but the liberal citizens to runaway to other open minded countries. What would a simple citizen do - be patriotic and fight the tyrant or runaway to live a free life. Is there a way to reason with someone who refuses to listen. Following the age old traditions without questioning there relevance or logical reasoning at the first place. 

Along with the cultural eye opener, I fell in love with this book for the 8 rebellious women who imbibed the book love in its highest form. The main protagonist is the author, Azi Nafisi and the others are her select set of girl students who form a secret book club to read and share books which were banned from the university syllabus or prohibited to read. Each girl is special - Manna the poet, Mahshid is sensitive, Yassi the comedian obsessed with words, Azin the wild and outspoken, Mitra the calm with dimpled smile, Sanaz the independent yet traditional and Nassrin the Cheshire Cat. 

The secret book club and the intriguing book discussions makes this book a collectors dream. I have read many books, authors and they are all book lovers but nothing like the ones in this book. There love for books is not a hobby, it's a passion fueled by the will to live and think in a society which restricts it. 

The classics have been critically analysed and reviewed from multiple aspects of time, religion, society, gender, politics, marriage and love. Each nuance discussed carefully and beautifully like peeling of layers of onion delicately leading to the core of a shared experience. I found myself sitting in that book club hearing their conversations, feeling there emotions and watching their expressions. So many stories unfolded while discussing these books. Each character found its link to the story, interpreted in its own way. Ones freedom is another's rebellion, ones shyness is another's weakness, ones choice is another's selfishness, ones belief is another's chastity. 

When Professor Nafisi calls these women as my girls, believe me I felt they were my girls too. The same girls I have grown up with, fighting similar social orders and disorders, trying to be independent and live freely.  While not on the same scale, this is the struggle all girls have to fight and continue to fight. Because it's the women who can make this world simple and liveable while the men try to mark it with rules and boundaries. 

This book is for all the women and their journeys. Everything I felt and experienced while reading this book made me a more mature and grateful person for the small mercies.  A book that adds so much to you as a person is bound to stay with you forever. This one will stay as long as I read and whenever anyone asks me to suggest a powerful book to read, this will be my first recommendation. Dedicated to all those who are changing the world just be reading books! 

Further reading inspirations from book. Nafisi teaches western literature and these classics are a must read-  
- Vladimir Nobokov's 'Lolita' and 'Invitation to the beheading'. 
- Scheherazade (A Thousand and one nights) 
- Mike Gold (proletarian) and Maxim Gorky were intrusively subversive in their political aims: others like Fitzgerald's (Great Gatsby, The Nigger of the Narcissus) and Mark Twain, were in my opinion subversive, if less obviously so. 
- Muriel Spatk's The prime of Miss Jean Brodie 
- Adventures of huckleberry fin
- moby dick
- the scarlet letter
- Daisy Miller 
- The Dean's December 
- Jane Austen 
- Billy Budd
- Around the world in eight days 
- Hamlet
- Loitering with intent 
- Madame Bovary
- Anna Karenina 

Now some pearls of words from book, which will stay with me much after finishing the book. One can feel the love for books oozing in every word - 

Reality has become so intolerable, so bleak, that all I can paint now are the colors of my dreams. 

Readers were born free and ought to remain free. 

Poshlust, Nobokov explains is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely cleaver, the falsely attractive. 

There on the brink of the void, I could invent the violin or be devoured by the void. 

Lolita belongs to a category of victims who have no defense and are never given a chance to articulate their own story. 

Yassi's poem is called "How Small are the Things that I like." In it she describes her favourite objects - an orange backpack, a colourful coat, a bicycle just like her cousin's and the green gate of the university. A magical entrance into the forbidden world of all ordinary things she had been denied in life. 

Lolita belongs to a category of victims who have no defence and are never given a chance to articulate their own story. As such, she becomes a double victim: not only her life but also her life story is taken from her. 

Nobokov calls every great novel a fairy tale. First let me remind you that fairy takes abound with frightening witches who eat children and wicked stepmothers who poison their beautiful stepdaughters and weak fathers who leave their children behind in forests. But the magic comes from the power of good that force which tells us we need not give in to the limitations and restrictions imposed on us by Mcfate, as Nobokov calls it. 

Azin would often bite the corner of her lower lip and launch into tirades about love, sex and men - like a child throwing a big stone into the pool; not just to make a splash, but to wet the adults in the bargain. 

"Today is the day of mourning! Taleghani has gone to heaven today." That was the first time I experienced the desperate, orgiastic pleasure of this form of public mourning: it was the one place where people mingled and touched bodies and shared emotions without restraint or guilt. There was a wild, sexually flavoured frenzy in the air. Later, when I saw a slogan by Khomeini saying that the Islamic Republic survives through its mourning ceremonies, I could testify to its truth. 

That first day I asked my students why one should read fiction. I wrote on the board one of my favourite lines from the German thinker Theodor Adorno: "The highest form of morality is not to feel at home in one's own home." I explained that most great works of the imagination were meant to make you feel like a stranger in your own home. The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted. It questioned tradition and expectations when they seemed too immutable. I told my students I wanted them in their readings to consider in what ways these works unsettled them, made them a little uneasy, made them look around and consider the world, like Alice in wonderland, through different eyes. 

The novel was an American classic, in many ways the quintessential American novel. Some cite its subject matter, the American dream, to justify this distinction. We in ancient countries have our past- we obsess over the past. They, the Americans, have a dream: they feel nostalgia about the promise of the future. 

A novel is not an allegory. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't r able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing. 

James did not like his heroes and heroines to be infallible. In fact, they all make mistakes, harmful mostly to themselves. Their mistakes, like the tragic flaw in a classical tragedy, become essential to their development and maturity.

I had a theory that some gifts should be bought for their own sake, exactly because they were useless. 

We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art. - Henry James 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Muslim man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a nine year old virgin wife. 

"Did you fall in love?" It was a joke among my friends and colleagues that I could never resist posing my obsessive question to married couples. 

It is not accidental that the most unsympathetic characters in Austen's novels are those who are incapable of genuine dialogue with others. They rant. They lecture. They scold. This incapacity for true dialogue implies an incapacity for tolerance, self reflection and empathy. 

Modern fiction brings out the evil on domestic lives, ordinary relations people like you and me. Evil in Austen, as in most great fiction, lies in the inability to see others, hence to empathise with them. What is frightening is that this blindness can exist in the best of us as well as the worst. We are all capable of becoming the blind censor, of imposing our visions and desires on others. 

I have come to believe that genuine democracy cannot exist without the freedom to imagine and the right to use imaginative works without any restrictions. 

04 March 2017

Cinderella falls in 'love in the pink city'

The book and the author, from reading Cinderella and Anna Karenina to the love in the pink city, this 19 year old shares her love for reading and the writing... 


First book I remember reading...

When I was born, my mother’s best friend who had shifted abroad had sent Walt Disney’s Little Golden book, which was a set of 6 stories. I was too young to remember it but my mother says it was the book Cinderella out of those six books. 


My Favorite Author...


I love Ayn Rand’s fictions because of her originality. O.Henry is another favorite author because I love the surprise endings of his stories. Lately, I’ve discovered Haruki Murakami and loved his writing style. 


My Favorite Book...


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and We The Living by Ayn Rand have been my favorites; I cannot really select one because I love both of them. I’ve believed that books choose its readers and that’s what happened with Anna Karenina  because I just happened to read it and ended up liking it more than I could imagine. We The Living was a book that both my parents loved, so I was always curious to find out why and co-incidentally my best friend gifted it to me on my birthday. 


The Personal Library at home...


At my home we have two mini libraries, one is what my parents have and the second one is my own. When I look at my bookshelf I find that the books I have aren’t necessarily my favorite ones but I feel an emotional connection towards them. Often there’s a memory associated with the book. Some of them are gifts from people and I treasure it as their memory, some of them are expensive books for which I saved up my pocket money, some of them are old and worn out probably picked up from the local ‘raddiwala’ because I simply must have it, some are my favorite authors who I look up to when I’m feeling dull, while some others are old books that I overgrew but couldn’t part with because they remind me of my childhood. I cherish all my old books and still have the first book I ever read in my library. 


The idea and the book...


I’ve always found it easier to write rather than speak about my feelings or about things that bothered me. So, I started writing many random things like poetry and short paragraphs and eventually short stories. When I showed a few of it to my close friends and family they suggested that I should make these short stories into a detailed full-length novel. I elaborated my short stories more and it turned out to become my draft. It wasn’t really an idea that suddenly struck me, it was more of a process that happened gradually. 


About the Author: Gautami Shankar

 Gautami Shankar is a 19-year-old student currently pursuing her Bachelors in History at K.C. College. She has written a variety of things ranging from micro fiction to academic papers. She likes to write screenplays as well and is a member of FWA (Film Writers Association). She is also a regular writer on Wattpad, where she first started writing this book at the age of 15. Apart from writing, Gautami loves to read classics and is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer. She lives in Mumbai with her parents and her dog Akira. You can tweet her on @GautamiShankar and follow her on Wattpad @Gautami_Shankar.  


About the Book: Love in the Pink City

Stella Lawrence is a classic workaholic- she is the head of one of the top business consulting firms in New York, she spends long hours in her company of her projects, and she looks every minute of it. But being a workaholic has its own difficulties- she has no time for family or friends, and she definitely has no time for love, especially since she had her heart broken in the worst way possible. Little that she knew that her life was going to go through a complete transformation when a project brings her to Jaipur to work with the royal family, no less.


Prince Raghav Singh Rathore is a tall, dark and handsome – with a clash of brooding intensity and disarming charm. He finally has a chance to prove himself worthy of his family’s legacy and he had to hire the best of the business – Stella Lawrence – for things to be absolutely perfect. However, someone is determined to sabotage Prince Raghav’s plans, and in the process the royal family as well. Amidst family politics, betrayal, blackmail, and conspiracies, Stella and Raghav are about to find out that love finds one in the unluckiest of places indeed.  


The legend of Lakshmi Prasad


Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Funny, sharp and moving Twinkle Khanna shifts from her celebrity status and page 3 background to talk about real issues and real people across country. I admire her writing which picks up real stories of people who are making change where it matters. I hope her writing goes places. In her simple English and sassy style she remarks on the taboos and stereotypes that exist in today's world. 

The short stories are short and sweet but they leave you with a warm feeling of goodness. There is so much that we can do from the comfort of our homes. We can treat our help staff better, we can stop criticising and putting other people in boxes of knowing English and faking accents, we can stop assuming that marriage and children is the only purpose women exist, and we can stop shying away from women hygiene issues which plagues million women in our own country. We can start the change which we wish in others. 

In her own words, some education and some humour - 

Job, where people try to do as little as they can for as long as they can.

Women empowerment, where improving a woman's economics status improves her entire family's condition. 

Education, being uneducated does not mean you are an idiot. idiots think that because something is complicated, it is superior, whereas an intelligent man takes a complicated thing and makes it simple. 

Women have been looking for a cape and have been handed an apron for centuries. 

Hot Tea Across India

Tea is to body, what love is to soul! 

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I generally don't read non fiction or travelogues, although I do write latter. But this one was particularly enjoyable with its easy language and relatable stories. The author Rishad Saam Mehta is a serial road tripper and shares his experiences with tea, travels, trips and tips. The anecdotes are funny in a way only a traveler can understand, simple experiences which become memories forever. There are no big nirvana peaks but small moments of laughter and life. 

In fact it reminded me of all our road trips. The stories laced around cuppas of tea. If you are a traveler and that too on road and in India then tea is an essential part of your journey. The road side tea stalls are like pit stops for rejuvenating, relaxing, refuelling and relating. You can capture the essence of the area from the kind of tea served across the country. 

Indian tea has many forms and this book is pure joy for a true brown tea lover - the heavy milk tea in North, more liquid and thin black tea of west, kulhad of Kolkata, filter coffee styled tea of South, honey and saffron tea of Kashmir. 

You can not survive a road trip if not for tea. And if you can get the essential accompaniments like PARLE G, or jam cookies, or toasted bread butter, you are set for a heavenly journey. 

Frankly the generous spread of tea stalls in every corner of the country makes sure you never go hungry or without help. There is always a hot cup of tea waiting for you! 


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