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Friday, February 28, 2014

Reading Fiction... Its Necessity. Its Importance.

I have written about the benefits of reading. But now, I want to stress a little more on fiction. Reading non-fiction also has its advantages, but there is so much, one can take from reading fiction; mentally. Charles W. Eliot once said that ‘Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers’.

There have been quite a few studies about reading and reading fiction, in particular. One advantage, which I thought was so true, was that it helps in building empathy. How many times have I read Harper Lee's ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ before I found myself seeing the truth in what Atticus Finch had to say, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it’. 

Not only in whatever he said but in the identification, I felt with the character, Scout Finch. Scout herself was a tomboy, she enjoyed climbing trees, getting messy and running around with friends. Maybe it was because I was younger when I first read the book that it took me very little time to empathise with Scout’s character.

By following Atticus’s advice, there was an understanding which Scout felt with various other characters. Her brother Jem, ‘Boo’ Radley and Miss Caroline.  The problems with Aunt Alexandra are something I faced too, with my grandmother and mother. As she constantly pesters Scout about wearing dresses, I was pestered similarity by my mother. Yet to see the difference, it took me Atticus’ words and a little more pestering, before I actually changed. (Not too much, tough)

When I was growing up, I found myself reading quite a bit of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The brain gets amazing exercise. I saw myself reading and re-reading the pages to understand the points, which they make in the book, to see if I could get to the end before Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Once in a while, I did too. Your problem solving skills could also benefit from reading similar novels.

Let us remind ourselves of all the stuff, which we read and studied in school. I found myself understanding and sympathising, when I read historical novels, which had subjects, which I could relate to chapters in my history text book. ‘The Empire of the Moghul' series by Alex Rutherford, to Indu Sundaresan’s ‘Taj Trilogy’ and ‘The Mountain of Light’, all have subjects pretty close to the topics which, we studied in school (Not with too much interest though).

Medical and psychological aspects also are dealt with and understood better through fiction. Whether it was Robin Cook’s ‘Coma’ or Ken Kesey’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. These books have us understanding the problems, while simultaneously increasing our knowledge. They make you kinder because you actually get what is wrong with somebody afflicted with a particular illness.

Science fiction helps us with concepts, which we are either, not used to or have never seen. For example, HG WellsThe Time Machine’ or even JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ and his invisibility cloak. Both these were merely concepts yesterday, but today they could almost be reality. 

Arthur C Clarke said in his novel, 2001: A Space
Odyssey’… “One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers... Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him”. News on the digital medium got a boost with this book.

Geography is a subject too, for a few novels. For example, the English geography, complete with its hills and rivers are explained in Enid Blyton’s books, while Afghanistan’s hills are handled in Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns’. The two also dealt with the historical and sociological aspects of the place, as well.
‘Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson and this statement has never been truer, when you read these books.  Due to the novels you have read, you become sharper and more open to ideas and experiences, which in turn make one’s decision making easier. Imagination grows as does a person’s intellect.

So, which fiction is up for grabs, today? :)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Author Interview: An Indian, author of 'India Was One'

I still have no idea, who the author is but keeping up the mystery is this Indian. A person who delved into his own memory, to put out ‘India Was One’ gives us his whole perspective on what he does and why and how he does it. 

Marketing is the key is an oft heard phrase, but how it works in spite of the challenges was this author’s fundamental point. Terming his book, ‘Realistic Fiction’ this author chooses to spend his time, marketing his book across the world, he asks us not to give up, but to follow our dream of writing…

How did ‘India Was One’ happen?         
I had this idea playing around my mind, for a while. But I really didn’t know how to end it. I was not happy with the way my book would end. Then certain unfortunate events happened. I then used them in my book to end it the way it satisfied me.

It took me less than a week to pour down my initial ideas/thoughts. Then, it took over a year to expand on them. I finally decided to pen it down in January of 2010.

What is the kind of research has gone into this book?

I was writing the book from my memories and experiences. So I didn’t have to put a lot of effort to do research.

You are living in the USA now. How much of it did influence the fact that you wrote this particular book? And how?

Yes, I live in the USA now. I would say that I wrote what I observed, rather than something influencing me to write.

You have put in a lot of topics such as the different states, and countries and even

day to day lives into the book. How did you achieve it?

I have been fortunate to travel to most of the places described in my book. I just had to recollect my memory. My intention has always been to show how diverse India is to the world.

How diverse the people are. How different we are. But the most important thing is that although we are all very different, we all love India, in our own way.

Was the transition in writing, tougher or smoother than you expected?

Most definitely, tougher. After completing my book, I realized that it was the easy part. Marketing is the harder part. There are so many good books written by talented authors.

I think they are much more qualified, talented, technically correct, etc. than I ever will be. So it is very hard to get my book known.

How much of this book is based on fact and how much is your imagination?

I don’t know if I’d term them as facts. However, I’d say 80% on my experiences and 20% on my imagination. That’s why I call my book a “Realistic Fiction”.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing a book?

Taking a walk down the memory lane. Recollecting my college days, those wonderful times I had with my friends, my life in Mumbai...

What book is coming from your desk, next?

I have not written anything. However, I have some ideas floating around in my head. So, stay tuned.

Any advice to writers that would like to be published today? How tough is it to be published?

Don’t give up. Keep trying. Follow your heart, your dream. If you think that you are doing something right, listen to your heart, and not to others. It is very tough to be published (by others).

So, self-publish. Rather than spending time in finding a publisher, publish it yourself and spend that time marketing your book.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

Rather than saying, ‘my favourite authors’, I’d rather say ‘my favourite books’. They are Harry Potter series. My daughter grew-up with them.

It was a great experience she reading it first, then I reading it, then we discussing it, then we seeing the movie, then we discussing the movie and talking about what was in the book but not in the movie, then eagerly waiting for the next book.

Which book are you currently reading?

What else do you like to do on a daily basis?

I am a web developer by profession. So, most of my day is spent doing that, surfing the net, reading, etc. 

And of course, if India is playing watching a cricket match.

Website: www.IndiaWasOne.com (visit to read the first chapter for free, to read the poem used in the book, to see various artwork used in the book, to see an interactive map of India, to read some reviews, to see what many newspapers all over the world says, etc.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review : ‘Virgin Gingelly’ by V Sanjay Kumar

I honestly do not know how to begin this review. V Sanjay Kumar’s ‘Virgin Gingelly’ is a beautiful concoction, all through.  I guess, I was equally confused and since I can be a confused person at times, I must say that this book picked its odd reviewer. We could call it a bad book and end it there, but there was something else is the book, an aroma of sorts, which kept me going right through.

The book is not about oil, not about virgins and definitely not about Kathakali.The book seems to be speaking for the author, and so we have a struggling writer who, I guess is the protagonist, because it seemed like the story ended around him. How it began is another chapter, altogether. 

The place where it all happens is Rainbow Colony in Chennai, which is a melting pot since so much seems to happen here. So, we have the protagonist, a wife, a dog, old people from the colony, a poor businessman, a singer, an inspector, a matchmaker, a priest and ‘The Hindu’ who all play parts in this narration. There are a few other characters, as well but not enough to keep the reader’s attention. There are births, deaths, and events which make up a life, and we are stuck between the modern and the traditional. 

Basically, the story runs round and round and so, you do miss the end. There is prose and poetry in the narration, which cannot be ignored. It almost captures your imagination yet, it forgets about the reader halfway through it. It felt like words and thoughts, which the author has put together to form a novel.

So, if you have real patience, do read the book. Because this book should be read, and yet it felt like I had reached the so-called end, without knowing the beginning and the tangled middle.

Because just like ‘Cameras make you smile’ so does this book…

Author:  V Sanjay Kumar
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Hachette, India
ISBN : 978-93-5009-720-5
Price: Rs 499