Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Letter To My Daughter" by Maya Angelou

This is one of the shorter books I've read in recent times. It is a collections of essays, with a little bit of poetry thrown in, describing life's lessons and experiences through the eyes of a strong, independent African-American woman. (You can read more about her on her website. There's a lot to say about her and I can't say all of it here.)

The author never actually had a daughter, she has just one son. But she sees women all over the world, women of different cultures and races, as her daughters to whom she can pass on her experience and wisdom.

The book, though short, is packed with insights and interesting incidents, often occurring during her travels, which took her far and wide. She talks about respecting other cultures and respecting people who are different from yourself while being straightforward with people who do not deserve your respect.

The book gives the reader a certain amount of insight into a vibrant life of courage and strong will, of refusing to accept things as they are and trying to be your own person and shaping your own destiny. You may not be able to relate to her, because she is a rather unique person, but you can definitely appreciate and respect her and her writing.

Maya Angelou is an inspiration to people, especially women, of all ages and all countries. This book definitely makes a worthwhile read.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Of Commutes and Commuting

It has been a long while since I used public transport for my daily commute. Now, when my office moved away from the suburbs into the heart of the city, I am doing just that after almost five years. I am no longer used to it and I worry about forgetting something on the train. I am also not extremely pleased with the idea of being tied down by the train schedule. But it beat driving on the expressway during peak commuting hours any day. Plus, when I settle down with a good book on my way back, I find that I am already quite relaxed by the time I get home. On the other hand, when I was sitting in traffic, sometimes for over two hours, during my commute from work in Delhi, I would get home exhausted. There is no way I could have found the energy to cook dinner in the evening after that kind of thing.

But here's what I totally dislike about this commute. That I have to do it alone. In Delhi, I always had friends living close by whom I could carpool with. People I could talk to on the way. Or maybe not talk (I'm not much of a talker, and there were days when I didn't feel like it at all.), but just look at the familiar, friendly faces. I miss some of those people a lot. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

100 Shades of White

This book by Preethi Nair is something I'd been meaning to read for years, and I finally got around to it. It is the story of a mother who is left to bring up her two young children by herself and struggles at her task. It is also the story of a daughter caught in the turmoil of all kinds of family drama and romance.

The mother's life resembles a Phoenix rising from the ashes, more than once. The daughter has her own struggle to deal with and her own difficult decisions. All of it is set against the backdrop of the abundant variety of flavours found in Indian food. The food and the spices are described with a kind of passion that enables the reader to almost smell and taste them.

The story is very beautifully written and the fact that it alternates between the points of view of the mother and the daughter makes it a very complete and comprehensive narrative. It shows how two different people see the same situation differently, how they deal with the same pain differently, how misunderstandings disrupt the delicate balance of human relationships. It also demonstrates the well known but sometimes ignored fact that parents are always there for their children, even when the children doubt themselves or their parents, though sometimes the child's love for the parent may not be quite as unconditional.

This is a book that has all the colors and spices of life blended in just the right way, without being too light or too heavy a read.