Sunday, September 07, 2014

Book Bucket

The sudden trending of the #BookBucketChallenge surely caught an eye!

(Random pick from my shelf)

Books have been special, have provided the knowledge, have reflected the moods, have evolved me from a kid to an adult.

The earliest memory goes back to the rhyme books. 'Baa Baa Black Sheep', "Goosey Goosey Gander', 'Jack and Jill' and so many; playful and yet the most powerful way to introduce language. Poetry and humor has been a favorite read since then. Though the message hidden in the simple couplets is deep and hard to follow even to this day!

Then came the times, when the paper vendor was keenly sought on the first of every month, to grab a copy of Champak, Nandan, Misha, Reader's Digest and others, as soon as these hit the market and before those ran out of stock. An occasional Pran comics during the train journeys to cheer up; and a copy of Amar Chitra Katha, that so brilliantly retell the folklore and the cultural heritage.

To cultivate this habit of reading, was introduced to long stories, children's classic, science fiction and world literature. The numerous titles and authors, ranging from Arabian Nights to Sherlock Holmes, Premchand to  Oscar Wilde, Dickens to Shakespeare; opened the eyes to a world of fantasy and imagination, horror and worldly wisdom!

As the years passed, priorities shifted and fell in love with numbers, and had fun with physics. Preparatory magazines and text books - McGraw Hill, Bharati Bhavan, Competition Success Review, Brilliant, TIME; started occupying the shelves. And to these owe the success, the grades and the degrees!

While growing through the days of school and university, couldn't ignore the popular fiction of Erich Segal, Robin Cook, Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Chetan Bhagat and the likes. At the same time interest developed in the award winning Booker's and bestsellers. First felt that feeling of achievement on finishing a thousand pager Any Rand, that have finally matured as a reader!

Tried a brief stint at spiritual and motivational books. Paulo Coelho, Stephen Covey, Malcom Gladwell, Dale Carnegie, are a different league. They teach us not just to live, but how to live!

The latest stop-over is at non-fiction genre, business and biographies. It's just not enough to skim through the headlines, but to understand the people, the issues surrounding the everyday life and to find the solution to these issues, have to keep reading and reading a variety of topics.

Thankfully, this challenge provided ample good reviews and topics for discussion. Hopefully these will find place on my shelf someday!

(Analysis from FB data science: Books that have stayed with us)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Freedom from Facebook

This new experiment '99 days of freedom' has featured globally in the leading magazines. Do we need to abstain from facebook, to make us happier ?

Everyone complains of all kinds of annoying people on facebook, and the ridiculous stuff they post...
Each one at some point, by default or by design (the controversial mood experiment), has suffered emotional swings due to the content posted by others...
And yet not many can resist the urge to log in and follow what's happening around in others lives!
Is there an inherent contradiction between what you expect from others and what you do yourself?

Enough has been said and heard on the the do's and don't of social networking. But all of it hasn't succeeded in building a concurrence between the notion of self and that of the others. And all of us have our own set of pet peeves.
A person who wondered if others do anything worthwhile, gets time off work, and starts posting the candy crush highs...
A person who believes oneself to be rational, gets tagged in a post threatening that hell will call, and starts propagating the chain messages...
A person who claims to be social, upon meeting people, remains preoccupied with posting status update, texting or clicking selfies...
A person who pretends to be ultra liberal, sees an opinion differing from one's own, and becomes foul-mouthed...
A person who loathes when others boast, gets a luxury, and so gets the humble bragging rights...
A person who envies when others make exotic trips, visits a place, and starts flooding in hourly check-ins and check-outs...
A person who ridiculed the virtual dialogues between couples, gets married, and starts publicizing their own private talks...
A person who hated litter, becomes a proud parent, and starts posting the poopee moments...
And sure many more...

While it may not be a practical or a great idea to distance oneself from the charms and the benefits of sharing, but definitely worth an effort to consciously decide what and when and how much and with whom to share; and similarly what to read and care.

And conversely, what not to bother about. So, once you distance yourself from all the negativity around and those who spread it; and gain freedom from all the junk and those who create it; you won't any longer need freedom from facebook itself!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Gong Hey Fat Choy

'Happy New Year'. Well, it is a month past the new year celebrations, but I'm celebrating yet another beginning, this time the Chinese New Year.

The festival resembles very closely to the Diwali season back home. A fortnight long celebration has just begun, the longest holiday in the country. Taipei is a city that never sleeps, and there's an interesting 'Tourist Night Market Tour' to explore the midnight shopping. Open air markets are blooming with floral decorations, candy boxes, traditional Qipao dresses and loads of gift items. Looking at the assortment and the price, literally shop till you drop!

The day begins with a visit to the temple to worship the ancestors. What would one typically bring as offerings - fruits, nuts, incense sticks and money? Here in addition I noticed candies, cookies, crackers and cakes. Gods must be really pleased!

The whole city is painted in red, the emblem of joy and prosperity - red dresses, red lanterns, red packets. Bright and colorful lanterns, in different shapes and sizes, are hung everywhere. Fu hangings are seen at the entrance of homes, symbolizing the arrival of luck and happiness. All around there are loud beats of the drum, together with the dragon dance, to evict the evil spirits.

Both these festivals are associated with material wealth and the tradition of gambling. During Diwali, Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped to bring fortune; and it is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with Lord Shiva. Likewise during the Chinese New Year, Hongbao, the red envelopes containing money are distributed to the kids; and the traditional board game, Mahjong, is often played.

Fireworks, although a traditional part of the celebrations, are limited or banned in many urban areas owing to the safety incidents. Legend has it that bamboo sticks filled with gunpowder produced deafening sounds that scared off the monster Nian.

Under the Chinese zodiac, this is the Year of the Horse. Horse is active and energetic, endowed with independence and endurance. So the year ahead augurs well for travel, competition, leadership, and victory. The year already started with a splendid trip, may the rest follow! Amen!