September 19, 2015

Book Review: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

When I first came across this book, I was very unsure whether I would enjoy this book, in spite of adding it to my to - read list. And I must say, it has been on that list for a very long time, and each time i read the synopsis and put it off thinking its too romantic for me and Sufism is something I really have not much idea about. This time around, I had ample time on hand and my mind was free to concentrate and read a trying book ( as that was the impression I had gathered).

The Forty Rules of Love is a story of self discovery and freedom for a 40 year old housewife, from the shackles of daily mundane activities and a loveless marriage. And she discovers love and a deep understanding of self through the story of Rumi and Shams, via a work of fiction which she has to read, to write a literary review, in her capacity as an assistant to the editor of a publishing house.

Sufism, what does it mean? Where do these people dwell? There were so many questions when I think of Sufis and now its a world which I have been given a peek into, through the work of Elif Shafak.

This book speaks of the meaning of being a Sufi, and why they are many times misunderstood, but yet revered as they are considered very close to God and his teachings in Islam. Spiritual, psychic and drawing on the inner energy, Sufis are at times said to have special capabilities, but most often, they just have an aura about them. The author speaks of those who are born with a Sufi heart, and others who choose the path to become a Sufi, by following strict conducts and rules.

We are thrown into the path of Shams, from 13th century Persia, looking for the One, to share his knowledge with and someone who he will connect with at a spiritual level. The journey he makes looking for this person, and how he identifies Rumi when he meets him, as his true companion is a journey which when I read, brought me to think about many ideals that we follow in life, and how they can be changed, modified to bring peace and love around us.

One of the forty rules that Shams talks and which spoke to me, was submission. When I think of submission, I think of giving in, but why not look at it as trust. Its a difficult task, to believe and trust someone to know what is right for you. It speaks of love and oneness between two individuals, maybe something which we have not given to in today's world. This is demonstrated between Shams and Rumi, across many situations, and you are left wondering how can you manage that level of trust.

Is it that the world today does not allow for it? I am not sure whether thats the reason, the world depicted around Shams and Rumi is also dotted with people from varying backgrounds and hidden motives. I think its a matter of the mind, and as Shams trains Rumi to accept, love and forgive, it left a huge impact on me, and has led me to look for more works by Rumi.

This book speaks to you, the author does a fantastic job of bringing together so many different aspects, and very seamlessly at that. This will be one of those books which I will recommend to many when they ask me for a suggestion on what to read next!

Rating: 5/5

September 16, 2015

Book Review: Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

Have I read her columns?

Yes, a few.

Have I enjoyed her columns?

Yes, they are short and brings home a point which many women face everyday.

Now coming to the book. A work of fiction, more like a conversation with her mind, in topics ranging from parenting, marriage, fashion and work divided into various chapters. But, they are written in very much the same way as her columns, and some of them are just re-written versions of her weekly column itself.

Did I enjoy that?

I think after her column, I expected a different approach for her first book, so I must say I was not too thrilled about the book. 

It was very quick to read, in fact I finished it in one sitting, in about 2-3 hours. The language is very simple and she gets the humour across without much effort. But, once I was through half of the book, I felt there was a repetition in the prose. The peek into the Bollywood lifestyle which seems to be the core of the book became boring and extremely superficial by then.

Prodigal Son, Baby, the man ... it all seemed to lose its charm.

I believe its the short chapters and a column like approach which caused me to lose interest mid way. But, her language and style is fun to read, but maybe in a better setting.

Rating: 3/5

Image credit: Image linked to source

August 12, 2015

Second time around...

It was not much of a question whether we wanted to go ahead and have a family of 4. I think both B and me were always clear, that is something which we wanted, though you would hear it from him that he had to coax me into it. And I will strongly say, that ain't true.

But when I look at these past months, this pregnancy has been really different from last time. For one, I would classify as being affected by morning sickness for sure. I had these certain smells which I just could not handle. And I had a clear dislike for roti and dal. I just never wanted to have anything apart from rice. I think I could have survived on rice for easily 2 meals a day, but I diligently avoided it, knowing how I am susceptible to piling on the kilos if I ever fell into that trap.

And the tiredness which hit me like a wave, was just something I never expected in the first trimester. I was usually in bed sleeping for 1-2 hours after T and B left for the school and office respectively. And then lugging myself out of bed and getting into office was a task in itself. But, then maybe I just felt all the more tired coz when I was with T, I didn't really give into thoughts about how I was feeling. But, tired I was for sure!

And come second trimester, I was again in for some aches and pains. And invariably, the pains only arrived when it was time to get into bed. This ensured a tossing and turning and looking at the phone kind of sleep, which was really not great! And I really don't remember being miserable like this with T. She gave me intense calf cramps, but then that was it. Here I was faced with more aches and pains than I knew.

And now, at 37 weeks, all I have is aches and pains, and more aches and pains. Everyday is a  new ache and again not something which I knew would be so different from the first time around. I have aches where I did not even know an ache is possible exclusively, but now I know better! And, all my internet reading points me in this direction, that every subsequent time one is pregnant, the aches only increase! Now, this research I never did before the decision making stage... don't think would have affected the decision, but still...

And now as I do the waiting bit, I wonder how different will labour be first and second time around... Quicker, more intense is what reading says, and that doesn't do much good, just makes me gulp down and clench my fists all the more. I was a crying sobbing mess the first time around, and I certainly hope I can set a better record this time!

June 26, 2015

Experiencing happiness

Every one of us has days when we are down and about, and those days when you feel you can step up and do right about anything. On one of the down and about days is when I came across a friend who shared this course on LinkedIn, which was to be launched on Coursera, titled " A life of happiness and fulfillment". I thought about it a lot, and there has been many conversations which I have had with B about how I do not know really how to be happy and when I can be really sure that I am on a path to happiness.

And being one of those days, I decided to sign up for this course, and set my life straight, maybe with the help of this professor. All this was almost a month back, and I marked it on my calendar to not miss it too. This month the course started, and I saw myself watching each of the videos, answering the questions, making the effort to take up the course with all due respect. I did not even expect this from myself knowing that I am usually tired, or sleepy in between T and work and planning for my months ahead.

About the course, I was very happy with the way it was sectioned, delivered and the amount of research which went into it with guest talks etc. Defining happiness, assessing when and how you are happy, achieving that happiness, are all covered, and as a student, you are made to assess yourself and see the change in yourself with the progression of the course. One aspect of the course which I really liked was the concept of ' Flow'. It is very interesting to note how the same activity can result in a positive or neutral outcome, completely based on your mental state, and if you are in the ' flow' of matters.

Happiness in life is very much linked to your job, with over 50% of your day being occupied in your work environment, it is very important that the work that you are involved in, motivates and invigorates you from within. And what do you do if it doesn't? That is a question which we all know is for us to answer, but then there is a possible right methodology to employ to achieve this. That is something which I again found so beautifully explained in the second module of this course.

There are many times logically we know what is the right path, but when these have to be pointed at ourselves, we look at the path very differently. We deal with ourselves and our failures, especially, in a different manner than how we would otherwise deal with the same situation, when it has befallen a friend. Understanding how to deal with yourself is also a huge part in imparting happiness to oneself.

And the final deal which I am most thankful for is that I got around to thanking someone who made the most important impact in my life. I wrote an email expressing gratitude though these thoughts have always been on my mind, and it was simple for me to put it down. But, the fact is, this gave me the opportunity to get this doe and it did feel real good!