Books

Hygge by the Seine

I didn’t want to write this post but George Whitman’s words illuminating over the bookstore made me realize that if I want to be frère lampier then I have to be ready to light the metaphorical lamps.

The visit was akin to a pilgrimage for me. Situated by the river Seine in the latin quarters, the store does nothing but embellishes the bibliophile quotient of the city of lights.IMG_20170816_100829

The store is enormous and it holds so many books that it seems the place has achieved the best Weissman score for its compression algorithm. Initially the store was at 12 Rue de l’Odéon and was used as an office by Fitzgerald couple, T.S. Eliot, Hemingway. The owner of the store, Sylvia Beach, was the one who put James Joyce’s Ulysses into publishing.

The place has a beautiful cat that is not to be disturbed and I really admire the concept of no photography inside. At the entrance or by the bench one can find those tourists, with DSLRs larger than medieval cannons, looking through the eye piece of those massive devices and asking their friends/families/fellow travelers to pretend reading a book. How many photos and what types of photographs they are aiming at? Ich warum nicht!! Despite all this harakiri, there is a vibrant energy here that is scarce to find. The bookstore has rooms like chapters in a novel and Whitman had rightly described it by saying  “Where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.”

It is a place where entire world comes, stays for a while and then leaves and for whatever time I was there, those moments were moments of Hygge for me.

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San Francisco To Plant Pure Nation

I spent last month in traveling, both for official work and for leisure. A trip to San Francisco is always inviting and I grabbed it with both hands when my mind finally decided to utilize the memorial day weekend at last minute and I booked a hotel and flight to the golden state. I didn’t have any agenda per say, I decided to roam around the familiar neighborhoods of Mission, Richmond, Tenderloin, Japantown, Russian hill, Nob hill, South of market and so on. After savoring the wonderful view I had  from the balcony of my room, I decided to go out and roam around.

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My first stop was Bartlett Hall to check on a friend who wasn’t there that evening and then starting roaming around the streets. After few hours I was wondering what I am going to do in the city formerly knows as Yerba Buena for three days and the first thing that struck my mind apart from my holy visits to fisherman’s wharf int he morning was the vintage book stores. There are some wonderful book stores in the downtown area but the one that I adore are Kayo books on Post st. ( one has to take appointment), Green apple on Clement street between 6th and 7th avenue ( massive used books store, a must visit for bibliophiles ) – I would compare Green apple with the Book Cellar on 79th st. & York av. in Manhattan, my former home, although Book Cellar is much smaller; and the Books Inc. on Van Ness and Turk. I had ample amount of time and I decided to leaf through every possible book I could and enjoy my coffee, isn’t it a dream?

I already am a vegetarian, to be specific lacto vegetarian but then too I observed some gain in fat in past few months thanks to the whole milk and yogurt and my travel to the parts of USA where the word vegetarian invokes curious glances along with derisive mumbles. I don’t venture into the self help and cooking sections in general, not that I have akin to George Carlin’s aversion to self help but I have a different take. Let’s not digress here; So, I took a stroll into the cooking section this time and leafed through many vegan and vegetarian cooking books. They ranged from basic such as putting together an edible salad to much advanced one such as eggplant tagine with roasted freekah, what caught my eye was the various combinations that were put together and the emphasis on calorie count, reduction of sugar, salt, and oil in food. I enjoyed them thoroughly and enthused, eventually ended up buying two of them.

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Plant pure nation is more aggressive on no usage of oil along with veganism while vegan one is just true to its name. I brought them home and being motivated made a trip to grocery store where I purchased different types of grains such as freekah, mixed quinoa, bulgar wheat, oats along with other vegetables. My fridge hasn’t been so well equipped before but the results? They have been abysmal. When I cook, I am meticulous of the recipe, the heat, ingredients, the steps I have to take, and I don’t think twice to improvise. I started putting these recipes together such as mushroom pâté, or over baked potato chips but they didn’t turn out fine at all. It feels like I don’t know how to cook at all; even today I burnt my 4th batch of potato chips ( baked in oven without oil, not fried ). I used to think I can’t do wrong with chutneys but after today’s results I am wondering were previous ones all fluke or what? Pâté’s quantity is so massive that I need to invite people over few times to finish it over and in those invitations I would have to shove it down their throats.

I need a success soon sans which these books will start biting the dust like so many other books I have bought in the past are biting and stamping the concept of tsundoku in my life.

Guide – 1965

To me R K Narayan has always been more than a fiction writer; at one hand he is a sweet reminisce of relatable stories and on the other is someone whose stories if read deeply can be as complex as Freud’s civilization and its discontents.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059246/

Based on the book Guide which won Sahitya Academy, the movie – Guide, is a classic produced by Indian cinema industry. Few people know that it was Pearl S. Buck ( The writer of The good earth) convinced Dev Anand to produce a movie on this book while both of them were in Berlin film festival. Corroborated with excellent background score and soulful music, the movie is a mandatory watch to anyone interested in international cinema or any Indian who harbors the notion that CGI clad Hollywood movies are the best thing that have happened in this century. Although R K Narayan wasn’t elated on seeing the movie as the movie doesn’t adhere to the book verbatim, he extolled Waheeda Rehman ( Lead actress) for bringing Rosy alive on the celluloid.

It is interesting to see the how the characters of Rosy and Raju develop throughout the text. Love, skill, success, devotion, aversion, egotism, deception, introspection, withdrawal, asceticism, belief, altruism, and the eventual knowledge follow in order. The guide guides himself to glory. He guides himself to the strength that a few are introduced to and transcends the bridge of life and death. I can extrapolate Guide to the reverence with which The Great Gatsby is looked at and I think I am not wrong.

Catcher in the Rye

Last evening while I was sitting and working at cafe Jax on 84th street, a woman came and sat 2 seats left of me. I gave her a glimpse and tend to my work and on second look I saw that she was reading Catcher in the rye. I have few fond memories of the book and I did overuse the word ‘phony’ for months after I read the book. Everything was phony 🙂 That’s how a young mind works. I tore a piece of paper from my notebook, wrote something on it, got up and placed the note in front of her table. She read it and she and I had a hearty but silent laugh. I had written “I like it when somebody gets exciting about something. It’s nice!! – Holden Caulfield”. After couple of hours we came out of the cafe at nearly same time and talked at length about thousands of things – books, art, painters, museums (MET, neue, Guggenheim, MoMa etc), dinosaurs, food, restaurants, pastries and work.

Happens in Manhattan!

 

Tolstoy

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! In the Wild !

Leo Tolstoy is one of my favorite Russian writer. I do not like to those people who plan each and every single thing in their lives. Sometimes few things need to be left on your impulsive instincts. Into the wild is a great movie and my favorite quote from the movie is

“If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.”

 

The English Teacher

Many times we fall into the vicious circle of monotony of life engaging ourselves into morose frivolity. The circle has exits in form of tangents but we fail to notice them. Past few months were tough and I couldn’t squeeze out time to read anything new except few blogs. I have civilizations and its discontents’ digital edition but Mr. Freud loves to write in encrypted language. It takes time to read and understand each and every sentence and I am sure that my 20 min subway ride to office doesn’t offer solace to read and reflect. But there is a one author who always hits the bull’s eye for me. None other than R K Narayan. What a wonderful writer! Whatever he writes seems so real that I can actually see it happening in front of my eyes.I am a slow reader and I sometimes unsettle when people finish tomes in couple of days.If I am enjoying a text then I read sentences and get lost in the thoughts, paint the picture and relate whatever was said to my own life’s experiences.

Today, I tried to break the circle by picking up The English Teacher by R K Narayan. Written in the pre-independence era in India, the book generates such vivid GIF files of the time that I am unable to put it down. I already skipped breakfast and lunch but bookhe pet bhajan na hove gopala( Not possible to pray empty stomach).

What amazes me is that human brain functions approximately the same as a function of age irrespective of the era we are talking about. The main character of the book has all those problems which a present day 27-28 year old might face. The same procrastination , the same apathetic panorama has been transcended and passed on from one generation to other like the Olympic baton.

Few months ago, Thanks to accurate timings of subway, I got late for an appointment and while coming back in ‘anachronistic vintage’  R train I found a small diary on the steel seat. The diary had cuttings from old newspapers and from other diaries as it seemed to me. It was a mosaic of diaries of other people- people who lived between 100 to 125 years ago in NY, mainly Manhattan. People had noted down their daily lives, observations etc in beautiful cursive that would be legible for calligraphy. Comparing to today the world was primitive at least in terms of technology, science but human emotions are in time warp. Agony, anger, love, ambition have always been there and were reflected in the diary events of the numerous people from that scribing venture. I time traveled that day. At my stop I submitted the diary to the Bermuda triangle (lost and found dept.) of MTA. Hope it has reached its owner by now.

Wikipedia link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_English_Teacher

Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/The-English-Teacher-R-Narayan/dp/8185986037

Goodreads : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/196743.The_English_Teacher

The Great Gatsby – II

I think its my second post on this book. The first one is here.

Fitzgerald

I like the book for 2 reasons :

  1. Its the epitome of the greatest American dream – from rags to riches. But for living any dream, one has to pay a price.
  2. There are people like Tom and Daisy who think its their right to thrash and play with things and people and at the end of the day they retreat to their shells of wealth.
  3. Characteristic Immoderate obsession to the past.

Each and everything is so relevant even today.

The era in which it was written was a revolutionary one. I heard someone saying that the youth revolution started with Gertrude Stein’s lost generation in 1920s not at Woodstock in 1960s.

The Book of Disquiet

“Fields are greener in their description than in their actual greenness”

For a long time … I haven’t recorded any impressions; I don’t think, therefore I don’t exist. I’ve forgotten who I am. I’m unable to write because I’m unable to be. Through an oblique slumber, I’ve been someone else. To realize I don’t remember myself means that I’ve woken up.

Fernando Pessoa

I don’t have any topic sentence for this blog ! – Wait it is “To pay or not to pay” .

Once upon a time there was a boy and there was a girl.

Nah !

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It’s so cliched way to start a story.

So, let’s chose another way.

I met her in the flight from London to New York and we started talking. It was my first visit to NY and I asked her about where to find apartments, library facilities etc. She seemed a helpful person and was quite nice to talk to. We exchanged email Ids and resumed our cyber communication after I got settled. We decided to go for drinks at P J Carneys on 7th avenue near Carnegie hall.We talked a lot about job, movies, life etc . We did have few similarities for both of us liked cats, friends(TV show), Manhattan and we did order same drink. It was a short and sweet meeting. We decided to meet again after few days and so did we. Again, same place, same time. We talked and after an hour or so we decided to call it a night. Now, at this point something happened which still baffles me. The bartender gave us the bills and I decided to pay for both of us. It wasn’t anything major – only $30 . There is no harm in showing a little chivalry.

But I think this act of mine lead things south and she never responded back to my emails, texts again.

I have given it a thought few times and the plausible reason is , she was a strong independent woman who took the payment of drinks offensive. But in my defense I would say ” In India, whenever we go out for food or drinks then one person pays generally and others pay at some other occasion”. And if the amount is high then we split it into appropriate parts. But what I didn’t know that it can be taken offensively. I have talked about this “to pay or not to pay” dilemma with many of my friends and most of them had the thought that its fine thing to do.

Nevertheless, let’s get back to the story. After few more months I was transferred to Chiberia(Chicago) and I spent one year there. This year in February, my team asked me to operate from New York office again. It was tough to find an apartment here and finding a decent studio is an uphill task here esp. in winter when its snowing all the time. I made walking records on my pedometer everyday. Eventually, I found a decent studio on upper east side.

Days,weeks,months passed by in the play called life when I saw her again near cafe Jax on 84th street. I went to her and said Hi ! She was stunning than ever.After talking for a while I asked whether she would like to go for lunch sometimes. Answer was affirmative.

Later that week I met her for lunch; we ordered food.I noticed that she had a book in her hand and there wasn’t any cover on it. I started talking about books and the best places in Manhattan for books and other book bars.

I asked her what was she reading and was she liking it.

She opened her book, took out a small leaflet type book and slid it across the table towards me and while she was doing so she said to me “we all should have strong relation with Jesus Christ and should commit our lives in his service”

That was the eureka moment for me, the moment of truth that it wasn’t a date, It was her attempt to “save me”.  🙂 🙂

The Good Earth

Now here comes my review of “The Good Earth” . I had definitely heard of this book many times before, but last year I saw it in one of the book stores of Delhi and I bought it immediately. I started it and read only a page or two, when a very good friend of mine told me some negative points of the book. I like to form my own opinions, so I carried on. Its just 250 odd pages and it generally should have taken me a week only but this one took me a while, more than one year actually. Hence, writing a review has become important for me on this.
At first, Peal S Buck definitely knows her subject and her years and life in China reflects in her works. I will say I was not greatly moved by the story as I am reading it in 2014 .Its a universal story , told and retold various times in myriad formats taking shapes of different characters. But because the book still entices the readers after 93 years of its publishing date makes it a classic read. The story depicted the common emotions of a common man, the various turmoils and the story “from rags to riches” which everyone wants to hear. One thing I can vouch for is the pre revolution rural China is depicted meticulously .Not only the emotions and way of lives of people but the socio-economic conditions of the country as well .
But it will be myopic to think of this book representing entire history of China. Does War and Peace cover the entire Russian history, will you say after reading midnight’s children of Salman Rushdie that you know a great deal about India. No, I don’t think so.
The work of a writer is to project certain aspects of the subject and Mrs. Buck has done it with agility and with dexterity.
If the novel were to continue for a one more generation then I would have said that the saying that “wealth doesn’t stays past 3 generations” is true.
Also, I am familiar with some past works of Mrs. Buck, I think she had strong liking for 2 things, the name “Wang” and saying that one of the character has a “big feet” 🙂