Category Archives: A READING LIST

Thinking about technology

This will be another book to look out for – ” Alone Together -Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other”

Sherry Turkle, the MIT professor who’s written it, articulates beautifully some of my thoughts about the potential effects on  us, on the next generation and on our relationship with the next generation of the all-pervasiveness of virtual forms of communication. Some gems from this interview here with the author  –

“..if you don’t learn how to be alone, you’ll always be lonely, that loneliness is failed solitude… ”

“…capacity for generative solitude is very important for the creative process, but if you grow up thinking it’s your right and due to be tweeted and retweeted, to have thumbs up on Facebook…we’re losing a capacity for autonomy both intellectual and emotional.”

“I think it’s an interesting notion that sharing becomes part of actually having the thought. It’s not “I think therefore I am,” it’s, “I share therefore I am.” Sharing as you’re thinking opens you up to whether the group likes what you’re thinking as becoming a very big factor in whether or not you think you’re thinking well. ”

“you start to notice that people ask you questions expecting a quick answer, and you start to ask questions that you can give a quick answer to. The questions can get dumbed down so that the answers will be quick. ”

This last resonated with me especially because I think I notice more and more that people seem less willing these days to engage in discussion for longer than is necessary to skim the surface; so instead of real conversations, one ends up making small talk on most subjects without really exploring or thinking anything through together in any depth.

The decimation of attention spans that began with channel-surfing with the television’s remote control has continued inexorably with mobile phones, always-on e-mail, smartphones – how I hate them with their zillion apps without which life seems impossible (whatever happened to spontaneous discovery, without needing an app to guide us to the nearest restaurant  serving our favorite cuisine?) – Twitter and Facebook.  And communicating in SMS-ese – even when it’s not SMS- appears to be quite acceptable and anything longer than the 140-character Twitter message seems to be, for many people, a ponderous essay that they can only bring themselves to skim through.

I could go on and might end by saying “O Tempora, O Mores !” , a la Cicero.

Or, more usefully, maybe I should finally try to figure out how to use Twitter especially for professional purposes.

As the author’s says about the iPhone, “It’s a precious technology, when used in accordance with your social, professional, and personal values.”

And I do agree with that bit too.

Learning/Teaching Hindi- a useful website

Fanny,  the aide de la maitresse (teacher’s helper) of Noor’s maternelle class last year, loves all things Indian so that over the years we’ve often brought her back things such as bangles and even a saree once, from India – in fact she tailored the blouse that goes with a saree herself, from a sample that I gave her !

Now, she wants a tattoo in hindi, and gave Noor a piece of paper last week with a name, a date and the words mon amour (my love) and paix (peace) that she wanted me to write for her in the Devanagari script.

As I did that this morning, I suddenly found myself stuck at the number 8 and just could not remember how to write this numeral in Devanagari. I did a hurried search on google and in the process found, among others, this site

It’s design and the way it’s written  appealed to me more than many others. It also occurred to me for the first time that teaching the girls Hindi in a formal way might be made easier with online resources such as this one.

While I like to think I have read enough Hindi all my life to know the language very well, I do struggle now with the trickier alphabets/matras and numbers when I try to teach these to Indira – she sometimes comes up to me herself to ask that I show her how to write in Hindi , which is great since this is something I have neglected –   so this site would be very useful for that.

15 Authors…

Yesterday, I got tagged by Bittu b in a note on facebook, where he listed 15  or so favorite authors. This required me to in turn do the same (list, tag…). I enjoyed that exercise so much, revisiting favorite reads in the mind, I thought I’d  preserve it here and maybe even build on the list.

“15 Authors”

* Don’t take too long to think about it.
* Fifteen authors (poets included) who have influenced you and will always stick with you.
* List the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes, and they don’t have to be listed in order of relevance to you.
* It would be lovely if you could tag at least 15 friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends chose.

So here’s the list I made –
1.I began with the first on Bittu B’s list – Anthony Buckeridge. Now I must find those books for Indira and Noor !

2.P.G Wodehouse

3.A.J Cronin who I loved when I read the books, but found oddly difficult to re-read some years after. Anyway… at the time, I was SO hooked.

4.Vikram Seth – who brings honor to Indian English

5. Rohinton Mistry, whose books just stay and stay with me

6.Nissim Ezekiel whose peoems in school were an early introduction to the elegance of free form verse

7.Henrik Ibsen for The Doll’s House, and some plays by Arthur Miller

8.Jhumpa Lahiri, who so beautifully – and completely accurately – captures the immigrant experience

9.All the authors who write in Hindi or other Indian languages – Manu Bhandari, Amrita Pritam,Rangeya Ragav,Shivani, Sharat Chandra and above all Yash Pal (whose Jhoota Sach is a masterpiece about the partition of the subcontinent). I love the strong women characters many of them create and they evoke a culture, ethos and values that are passing but which have shaped me in large part so that is something I understand and am comfortable with.

10.Mohsin Hamid, for Reluctant Fundamentalist which should be required reading for westerners to understand how their attitude to immigrants can affect the latter.

11.Joseph Heller for Catch-22. His ability to frame logical questions is almost brilliant. I seem to recall one conversation in the book which goes something like this –

“They are out to get me” (says a paranoid airforce man of the unseen/unknown enemy)

“Who’s they?”

“I don’t know”

“So how do you know they are out to get you?”

12.Douglas Adams for the Hitchhikers’ trilogy

13.Shashi Tharoor for The Great Indian Novel

14.Erma Bombeck whose humor about family life is the funniest

15.Anna Quindlen for the integrity and intelligence with which she writes

16.Anne Tyler who has the wonderful gift of empathy for the ordinary

17. Okay I am cheating now but how not to mention Stephen Levitt for his fabulous Freakanomics?

18. Gone with the Wind has to be here too and all the writers on David Letterman’s show. And on Jay Leno’s and Jon Stewart’s.

On the FB post I stopped cheating at this point but here I believe I can have as long a list as I want and not have to stop at around 15 !

So I’ll add Bill Waterson, of whom I was reminded after seeing Bittu B’s comment on a friend’s post on the same subject. How DID I miss him in my original list, considering that my collection of his Calvin and Hobbes cartoon books is one of my most treasured possessions?

Richmal Crompton has to be here too, for the wonderful books about William – another reminder thanks to a friend’s list of  her 15 favorites.

And I loved Rumer Godden, especially “An Episode of Sparrows”.

With an older brother at home, it was inevitable that I read many Alistair Macleans and also books by Leon Uris, and thoroughly enjoyed them all, as I did all the racy Perry Mason detective novels by Erle Stanley Gardner.

This list has also made me think of all the people from whom I’ve learned my love of reading. My father, most of all. And Shri – for as long as I have known him, he’s made me want to keep up with all the reading he does.

But also my brothers.

Sanju and Raju B  introduced to me 1. (my earliest memory of reading) and 11. respectively. I remember Raju B gathering us around and reading to us passages from Catch-22 in Bokaro one summer. It was almost an initiation in to a cult !

Debashish  insisted in Pilani that I read the Hitchhiker series and loaned me his copy of the transcript of the original radio show. What a gift !

And Bittu B, who showed me the way around the library in St. Xavier’s when I was 7 or 8 (where over the years the librarian allowed me books from the older kids section because he knew whose sister I was and so considered me capable of reading those) continues to share with me the books he reads/likes/collects. He  often comes with me to Crossword when I am in India and this summer took me to a great new place for cheap second hand books – his neighborhood kabarivala.

Making this list has reminded me of so many writers that I want to read more of now.

A must-have book

This is surely one to read and keep.

-The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright. Read about the book here

Excerpts from two chapters can be read here and here

Unputdownable book of the moment

These days, I close “Toss of a Lemon” by Padma Vishwanathan only when and because I have to.

It’s a fascinating story about three generations of a Tamil Brahmin family, very evocative of the culture, traditions and way of life of it’s setting.

At 600-odd pages, this is a book that will take me a while yet to finish and I am looking forward to at least another week of happy reading.

A Reading List

Aditi went book-shopping the day before we came here to Colaba to spend a couple of days with her and Vasanti. A couple of the books that she bought sound like they’d be fun to read, so those are the one’s I am starting this list with.

  • Cloud 9 minus one by Sangeeta Mall
  • Keep the Change by Nirupama Subramanian

Holiday Reading- India, August 2010

William Dalrymple’s “City of Djinns”, a history of Delhi, was fascinating to read.

I am now reading “Nine Lives” by the same author. It narrates the stories of followers of different religious traditions in India and thus offers a wonderful insight to faiths and customs such as Jainism and the theyyam dance form of Kerala that I knew very little about.

During the last 3 weeks in Jamshedpur, I also read several books from Ma’s collection of books in Hindi, some of them for the third or fourth time. But those old classics by Sharat Chandra or Premchand still make for engaging reading and the stories of authors like Malati Joshi and Mannu Bhandari have contemporary themes – many of them are women-centric – which resonate with me.