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.

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