Heritage, Countee Cullen

Found many poems, scribbled on scraps of yellowing paper, squirreled away in drawers. Saving it here before Meera rips it to shreds.

What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?

The power of words!
First verse of a longer poem by the same name. Heard this poem first recited by Maya Angelou.

Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms

After five years of research and writing,
Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms
was released on Ganesh Chaturthi, September 15, 2007.

This was my second book. When you see both my books juxtaposed on Amazon, you will nod: yup! only a Gemini could pull this off!

I am grateful that I was given this gift of compiling Prarthana in this form. With that also comes a responsibility of taking this message of our dharma to a wider audience. So I ask you to support this by purchasing a copy for yourself and your family.

With the festive season of Diwali soon approaching, you may want to pick extra copies for your friends and colleagues. Prarthana makes an excellent gift!

Get more details of Prarthana, as well as text excerpts at http://www.arunsprarthana.com
There you can also see details of the special pricing and how to buy it by credit card or check.

Prarthana is also available at Amazon for the List price.

I leave you with part of a review from Ellen Duranceau

… these prayers speak to something common to all of humanity: a spiritual impulse for light to dispel darkness; for connection to nature, to other people, and to the universe itself; for the courage to rise above our anguish or fears, to find hope and the best within ourselves, and to share our best selves with the world. In a time of great divisions, it is heart-warming to dip into another faith tradition and find common bonds, rather than alienation.


When I left India, I left behind my collections of Chandamama, Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Louis L'Armour, Alistair Maclean and many others. Also left behind boxes of Amar Chitra Katha, Commando, Tintin and scores of other comics. On these shores my collection sprouted anew. But every time we moved, it was easier to give away books and restart in a new city. This has been eight years in the making.

We just got this new book case with glass doors for my favorite books. The top-shelf will carry a few of M's doll collection.

2. Travel shelf. I still have a lot of places to visit!
3. My collection of Hindu Scriptures. The four Vedas (multiple editions) and others.
Arun Shanbhag's book shelves in Boston

4 & 5. A grab bag of Hindu philosophy and history (and fairy tales!).
Arun Shanbhag's book shelves in Boston

Bottom Shelf. Art and other over sized books.
Arun Shanbhag's book shelves in Boston

In an open shelf bookcase are paperbacks and general fiction; a few miscellaneous thrown in. I'm still moving books around and organization is still in progress. You may notice some duplicates. If I see a second copy of a favorite book on sale, I will buy it. Perhaps visiting friends will ask for them. The Buddha head is from a visit to Korea.
Arun Shanbhag's book shelves in Boston

Arun Shanbhag's book shelves in Boston

Arun Shanbhag's book shelves in Boston

There are several more bookcases in different rooms and in closets. A nice shelf of poetry; indian fiction, business-related, more philosophy and language. You can see those when you visit! Welcome to my world!

How Kaavya got Wild and Bombed!

Kaavya Vishwanathan – the new Indian phenom bomb on the writing scene!

Excerpted from the latest update here on NY Times. (registration may be required).

A day after Kaavya Viswanathan admitted copying parts of her chick-lit novel, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life,” from another writer's works, the publisher of the two books she borrowed from called her apology “troubling and disingenuous.”

On Monday, Ms. Viswanathan, in an e-mail message, said that her copying from Megan McCafferty's “Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings,” both young adult novels published by Crown, a division of Random House, had been “unintentional and unconscious.”

The “unintentional and unconscious” is a nice spin, considering her initial comment to the Harvard Crimson which first broke the story: … Viswanathan said, “… I have no idea what you are talking about.”

In an earlier NY Times article celebrating the impending release of the book, here is how their piece ended:

Ms. Viswanathan's own parents have been intent on giving her a book party when she gets home from college this summer. “They wanted to have a red carpet strewn with rose petals,” she said, her voice rising. “And I've just woken up and I'm still in my pajamas and my mom will call, and she'll say like, 'Kaavya, would you prefer pink or white rose petals?' “

Slightly premature.

First Book! First Look!

This was five years in the making! Lots of ups and downs! There were times I thought it would never see the light of day. But my co-editors were always there to pick me up, dust my knees and pat my shoulder. “You can do it!” M always reminded me. And so I persevered, and finally it is here.

When I saw the package from the Publisher, it was actually anticlimactic. Yes! I was glad to finally hold the tome. But it represented the culmination, the end of one project; and an opportunity to focus on another. I celebrate the confidence I gained, from assembling nearly 30 leading groups from around the world to contribute. The confidence of bringing such an undertaking to completion. I celebrate the friendships I nurtured, the friends I did not let down. A time to celebrate the long journey ahead, time to energize myself for the next push.

I don't expect you to rush out and buy a copy. It's expensive! At 783 pages, it will weigh your bag down considerably, but will look impressive on your book shelf. If you are trying to impress your boyfriend/girlfriend, this can certainly be an ice-breaker. If you are considering curling up with this book and a blanket, well … I strongly recommend against it. The first page will put you to sleep and the book falling on our face can hurt you! I suggest propping it up on a heavy table and resting your chin on a pillow. A particularly safe posture, especially when falling asleep is assured. There is no plot really, and the characters are lifeless. The writing is esoteric and dense. Very few pictures and importantly, there is no sex! So, there you go! Ask your doctor or a engineering/medical school library to get a copy!

Find more details at this random site.

Book: Explaining Hindu Dharma

I am always on the look-out for good books on Hinduism. And I have seen several requests here for recommendations for good books. Generally I have not been pleased with the books I have bought or browsed. Either they were so academic that they bored me to death, or they were so superfluous, badly written and horribly presented. I think I have found a book I can confidently present to colleagues and friends, and you.

Over the weekend, a friend gave me this copy of “Explaining Hindu Dharma: A Guide for Teachers.” It's a coffee table sized (~ 8.5 in x 11 inches) hardcover book. This is a British publication and targeted for UK school teachers. Essentially teaching teachers about Hinduism, so they can teach school students. So it does have some info on British school regulations, which are easily skipped.

The information is provided in a very efficent manner. No boring research, or indepth treatment of the scriptures. Just the essence. Many a times, I only have simple queries regarding some aspect of our religion and this book seemed to have it. There are innumerable short stories and information provided in text boxes and lots of pictures – which makes it ideal for my short attention span. I could randomly flip the pages and start reading. Very well done. This will make an ideal book to give as a gift.

At first I was uneasy that the book was published by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), but then I considered, who better to organize the resources and knowledge from the 1000s of sects and temples of India, than the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. I would not expect the Christian Coalition, or a gathering of Islamists, or some individual with suspect motives, to do justice to MY religion.

This local gentleman bought a large shipment directly from the publisher and is selling the book from his home essentially at his cost for $28.50 ($25 + 3:50 Shipping). BTW, the original price is 25 UK pounds. I was searching for it on Amazon.com and saw someone selling a 'used' copy for $215. What a rip-off! Ofcourse I told my friend to sell it on Amazon as well. I don't know when he will get around to posting it there.

In the meantime, if you are interested, you could contact him directly at: Brij Garg, 15 Ticklefancy Lane, Salem, NH 03079. his email is bgarg AT ieee.org

PS: I have no financial stake in the book or the publisher 🙂

Courage Matters

Just finished reading (actually listening to) John McCain's Why Courage Matters. A good read. Identifies the need for courage in our daily lives: how to recognize it, how to develop it, and ofcourse, why it matters? There was however too much emphasis on martial courage. Expected, considering John McCain himself is a Vietnam vet and an ex-POW.

In the book, McCain give examples of people in different walks of life and how they showed courage to stand up for what they believed in: Jack Lewis and America's civil rights movement, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, and Hannah Senesch of the jewish resistance who was captured and executed by the Nazi government in Budapest.

This was one of Hannah's poems:
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flames.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fortress of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor's sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flames.

Other recently completed books (Mix of Fiction and non-Fiction):
Vikram Chandra, Love and Longing in Bombay
Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Audiobook)
BB Lal, The Saraswati Flows On
Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Rohiton Mistry, Tales from Firozsha Baug
Ayn Rand, “Fountainhead” (Audiobook)

Next on my reading list: Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha.

Listening to Maya Angelou’s A Song Flung Up To Heaven

Listening: What it means to me
If a case has to be made for audiobooks, it is definitely when authors narrate their own works. Authors ensure tonal changes are exactly as they intend, and the listener need not rely on interpretations of a narrator. And Maya Angelou makes a superb case for audiobooks.

Maya Angelou
I just finished listening to Maya Angelou’s “ A Song Flung Up To Heaven.” Listening to Maya narrate her autobiographical work, will convert even the diehard opponent of audiobooks.

I am not reviewing the book here, but stating why listening to Maya was for me an exquisitely memorable experience. Not only is she a talented writer, but also a world class orator. She has a beautifully rich voice, and can control it as nimbly as classical dancers their muscle twitches. Her language and accent are moulded by experiences, in rural Arkansas, San Francisco, numerous US cities and four years in Ghana. Being a renowned poet, her voice has a lyrical ring to it. Continue reading “Listening to Maya Angelou’s A Song Flung Up To Heaven”

I’d Pick More Daisies

Pics of Daisies from a road side stall in Montreal Canada, pic by Arun Shanbhag

I’d Pick More Daisies

If I had my life to live over,
I’d try to make more mistakes next time.
I would relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been on this trip.
I know very few things I would take seriously.

I would take more chances. I would be crazier.
I would take more trips,
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who lives life sensibly and sanely;
have done so hour after hour and day after day.

Oh, I have had my moments;
and if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead each day.

I have been one of those persons who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a swiss army knife, a raincoat and a parachute.
If I had to do it over,
I would go places and do things and travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefooted earlier in the spring
and stay that way much later in the Fall.
I wouldn’t make such good grades except by accident.
I would have more dogs;

I would have more sweethearts.
I would go to more dances, and
I would ride on more merry-go-rounds.
I’d pick more daises.

Author: Nadine Stair

Note: This is not in the form the author originally intended; There are a few lines which do not appear in the original.

Enjoy my other life-related posts:

Pics of Daisies from a road side stall in Montreal Canada, pic by Arun Shanbhag

Novels people are reading in Boston, June 2004

Novels people are reading in Boston, June 2004

A few months ago, I posted my observations on the reading preferences of commuters in Boston. With a new summer upon us, the trees have dressed up, the grass grown taller and the skirts shorter. To match pansies in bloom, toes captured for the winter in heavy boots, are finally jumping with joy, free in sandals, in bright hues and occasionally toe-rings. My earlier observations still hold, and I further emphasize that more women appear to read novels on the train than guys. The novels appearing now are very different from a few months ago.

Here is a quick list of what people were reading on the Red-Line in Boston over the last few days. As before, this is a random sampling. Any from this list you like? The novella seemed interesting to me.
Arranged Alphabetically by title:

  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, (L Volokhonsky & R Pevear, Translators)
  • The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger (Two)
  • Dirt Music, Tim Winton
  • Four Past Midnight, Stephen King
  • The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices, Xinran Xue
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond
  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences, Truman Capote
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
  • The Middle East and Islamic World Reader, Marvin E. Gettleman & Stuart Schaar (Editors)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  • Ruby River, Lynn Pruett
  • The Runelords, David Farland
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand
  • Shopgirl: A Novella, Steve Martin & Martin Steve
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus,
  • Sword of Shannara: In the Shadow of the Warlock Lord, Terry Brooks
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

DaVinci Code: Layered Writing

Here are a few thoughts on the book’s writing style. I am not a writing expert, nor a linguist, just a discriminating reader.

In the book I sensed three distinct writing layers (for want of a better term) The strategic plot dealing with the catholic church, the secret society 'Priory of Sion,' and da Vinci's art are well thought out, very thoroughly researched, and provides very juicy historical and religious fact-based placement. This is what makes the book 'gripping' – the ability to smoothly intertwine fact and fiction. Overlaid onto this solid foundation is built a very amateurish tactical plot (descriptions of the characters, who runs where, who dies, how, why, etc.). The filler material (general descriptions, small details, nuances, jokes) was simply juvenile and bordered on silly. Pithy jokes about Rudy Giuliani (for eg.) were definitely out of place here.

The inconsistency in depth and style of writing leads me to believe that this author hired ghostwriters as many others do – (google 'ghostwriters') The author probably did a lot of research, laid out the main plot, outlined how the story should unfold and penned segments associated with the main theme. Then the ghostwritiers came in and “filled-in” the book. The author likely reviewed the entire copy, and made changes. This is the only way I can explain the complete disconnect with the different 'layers' of the book. As some of you are currently reading this book, or have already read it, I would love to hear your opinion on this.

If I were to read another of his books, I would subconsciously use this template and update my analyses. Thus I try to avoid follow-on books of bestselling authors. They fit a pattern. Once you sense it, then you hate it! Overall, a great fiction read! Highly recommended, except if you have upcoming exams, deadlines or pregnancies due! If you are looking for literary classics, try Hemmingway, or Maugham.

DaVinci Code: Mother of all novels

DaVinci Code: Mother of all novels!

As the bus screeched to a halt at my stop, I alighted and the lady from down the street followed. She motioned to my headphones and waved goodbye (normally we say a few words before going our ways). Politely, I removed my headphones and mentioned the book I was listening to.

She nodded knowingly and said, “isn’t it gripping?” Not assuming anything, I asked how she liked it. “I haven’t read it, but my friend really liked it.” She continued, “my friend just delivered a baby. The entire time she was in the hospital, she just wanted to read that damn book. When we visited, she didn’t care to discuss her baby, she just stuck her face in the book.” Seeing my astonishment, she explained, “its her second baby you know, so the excitement was less.” As if!

I rolled my eyes and motioned a goodbye. If I do something similar, shoot me! please!

David Gergen: Eyewitness to Power

Just finished reading this outstanding book by David Gergen. Never mind that I started this more than a year ago. Read a couple of chapters here and there. Finally completed it yesterday.

David Gergen served on the White House Staff of four US Presidents: Nixon (as head of speech writing); Ford (Chief of Communications); Reagan (Director of Communications) and Clinton (Counselor). Considering that he served Republican and Democratic Presidents, tells more of Gergen's centrist philosophies. He debated Mark Shields beautifully on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour. More than getting his point across, he aspired to educate the audience with his well positioned opinions.

In this book he offers behind-the-scenes accounts of the goings on in the White House, and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each President. Drawing upon these experiences, he offers a well thoughtout Leadership Guide to future leaders.

It is not one of those books which you can speed read. I would read a chapter, take a break, digest it, and then move on. His language is exquisite, and thats why I would read some paragraphs again and again. My copy is marked up with sections I would want to go back to, as a reference. If you think of ever harnessing your leadership potential, start here.

Maya Angelou

If you ever get an opportunity to hear Maya Angelou speak, jump to it! You will remember it for the rest of your life. I heard her speak about 5 years ago, and by the end of her lecture I was reduced to tears. She is the best. Or read her books. You will feel like someone lit a fire in your heart. I had read Maya's “Even the stars look lonesome” before. This evening as I was icing my ankle after a long run (yes the sun was out and I went for a run) I picked up this book and started skimming. Here Maya is talking about how the African-Americans have concealed themselves and their pain in their art. I don't think its exclusive to Africans. All people do it.

Here Maya quotes Langston Hughes:

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
And my throat
Is deep with song,
You do not think
I suffer after
I have held my pain
So long.

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
You do not hear
My inner cry
Because my feet
Are gay with dancing
You do not know
I die.

Read also my post: Maya Angelou: A Song Flung Up To Heaven

What are people reading here in Boston?

Boston is unique in many ways. Reputed for its world class colleges and as a healthcare mecca, here everyone reads in the buses and trains. Yesterday I made a quick unscientific survey. Of the seven folks in my row on the train, six were reading. The remaining soul was dozing – can’t blame her, it was early. That’s pretty much the daily trend. So what are they reading? Here are a few observations and generalizations.

During the morning commute, its primarily the newspapers, Boston Globe, Boston Metro, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times (London) and New York Times. Metro readers usually finish it in a few minutes and then go back to their novels or whatever else. The other newspapers appear to have more meat to occupy the readers. Particularly during the morning commute, more guys read newspapers or magazines and girls read novels. During the evening, both genders are equal novel readers. If a woman is reading a newspaper, she is likely to be dressed in business attire as well.

Only a small percentage (< 10%) read magazines: Newsweek, Economist (London) and New Yorker. Occasionally a clothing catalog. Noticed a few people reading the bible – exclusively women and more generally of African-american heritage. Yesterday for the first time, the lady next to me in a head scarf pulled out a small green volume of the Koran and started flipping through it. Never saw the Bhagvad Gita, or the Ramayana.

Reflecting the academic crowd, it is common to see students of all ages reading college textbooks and doing homework. Many more are reading photocopies of journal articles – usually the post-docs or serious academic types. A few may be thumbing through dissertations. Morgan Stanley Report: “Assessing Insurer’s Terrorism Risk,” surprised me yesterday – but we do have a large financial services industry here.

What novels are people reading on the train?
In the last 48 hours I noted the following novels. Please note I could only see the titles of about half the books. Listed alphabetically

  • Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, “Random Family: Love Drugs, Troubles and Coming of Age in the Bronx”
  • Andrew Greeley, “The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St Germain”
  • Arthur C Clarke, “Fountains of Paradise”
  • Augusten Burroughs, “Dry: A Memoir”
  • Dan Brown, “Angels & Demons” (two)
  • Dan Brown, “Deception Point”
  • Daniel Silva, “A Death in Vienna”
  • Gregory Maguire, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”
  • James Michael Thomas, “Script Analysis for Actors, Directors and Designers”
  • Jim Cymbala, “Fresh Power”
  • John Sandford, “Easy Prey”
  • JRR Tolkien, “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King”
  • Marian Keyes, “Last Chance Saloon”
  • Phillipa Gregory, “The Other Boleyn Girl”
  • Sean Hannity, “Let Freedom Ring: Winning the war of Liberty over Liberalism”

In the train and bus, what are they talking about? Ha Ha Ha, that could be a whole dissertation.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: