Thursday, 23 January 2014

Seema Goswami's recommendations of books to read

Sharing things that bring you joy is such a simple and fundamental delight – it’s not celebrated enough.  This is not gifting, but telling people you know (and others) that you discovered something new or unknown, exciting and loved it, and now are recommending others to try them.

Marketers dub it 'word of mouth' and try influencer marketing to get opinion-leaders to push their wares (nowadays through SEO).  This gets so overboard that it’s hard to find the real expert advice from say a paid testimonial.  Further, it is hard to get a recco that sooo much meets your requirements and matches your tastes that you simply have to go and get the recommended product – and, of course recommend this to more people – just like I am doing right now.

But first, I need to set the scene, in terms of my state of mind (and apologies in advance)

I am at the bottom of an end-less barrel, and yes, the year has just begun.  Somewhere towards the end of Dec and the first weeks of January life took so many un-predicted twists and turns and my family and I were in a tizzy. No, actually it was more like a typhoon that just shook us out of our home, and our planned move just didn’t happen, instead we were just lurched to various corners trying to get back on course – except nothing would go as per plan.

Finally, exhausted, we just gave up and set anchor at – where else, my constant refuge – my parent’s home in Mangalore, where, ironically enough I had come for a holiday just a month back - and that perhaps explains what happened to us best. I could visualize Providence looking at us everyday, as we fervently planned what to do or achieve through the day, and would laugh hard and ask us "really? now think again!!".  After a turbulent few weeks, we now have submitted ourselves to the fates, and just wait for the storm to settle down and the skies to become clearer, the sun to rise etc etc. 

And yes, the year has just begun…

Sorry for that dramatic and melancholic preamble – but it sets the scene for my recommendation.  Tastes, flavours, smells, practically all my senses have got numbed and it’s hard to relish anything at the moment.  Which is a deadly combination – you are not only exhausted, you are struggling to get through the day, and don’t even look forward to, if anything, that can sustain it.

My parent’s home provides us the succor and relief and we try our best not to impose upon their routines or discomfort them (hello, weren’t you here like just a month ago?) – but parents being who they are provide the solace that my family and I seek and in their warm embrace I finally can relieve my tired, aching, sore limbs and soul.

My parents had moved from Hyderabad, a city that I’d absolutely love, to Mangalore – one that’s unfamiliar to me.  But when they’d moved I’d taken most of my books with me – but I discover a few’d remained at home and I start devouring them.

One of them ‘Comeback’ is a delight and while I am reading it, I discover it’s my reading the same for the nth time – but the familiar can be so comforting, and this is one of Dick Francis’ best ones in terms of insights.  The hero, a diplomat shares many many insights about life, people, the Japanese, horses etc. and I re-discover some new ones I hadn’t absorbed earlier. Heres a sample -  any child who calls her mom ‘mother’ instead of mom, mums, or any other endearing term, wants to control her. Another priceless one – however curmudgeonly and cynical, hard-hearted a woman might be, she’s likely to be more accepting of you if she sees genuine appreciation of who she is in your eyes. (Dick Francis says it best, succinctly and impactfully – read the book, its priceless).

I finish the book across two days, and I can feel some hope, and some signs of life sprouting under the hard crust that seemed to decay and crumble all over at the end of those tormentful few weeks.

And then I remember during the crazy weeks past, as the world celebrated new year  - I just hadn’t the bandwidth to absorb a summation of what went by and what to look forward to.  But there was one article that I had kind of filed away to read when things would settle down (HA!),  and I go on the net to look for it.

This one’s by Seema Goswami – an editor with HT and has a column in its excellent weekend magazine Brunch.  I had actually slotted her as a serious writer as her column was more a social commentary discussing stereotypes, manners, gender dialogues, etc.

So this year-end brunch edition had her column where she spoke about books she’d simply loved reading in 2013– and it did caught my eye though I was a little wary, perhaps most of this would be serious intense, highfalutin' stuff that I personally can’t absorb (yes, even if I was in a good frame of mind, it’d move me so deeply I would go into a blue funk – Books like ‘color purple’ did that to me, and I decided it was best to stick to pulp fiction).

But then I remember Seema Goswami also simply loved ‘Eat,Pray, Love’ – it was love at first sight for her, so maybe there should be something in common that I might like?  I do a quick glance and skim through her column and KNOW immediately that I simply have to preserve this to do a full reading later when I can.   Because, surprise surprise her recommendations are all thrillers and page-turners, mystery novels etc..  and I haven't read ANY of these yet!  (I'd completed reading new releases of practically all my regular, fave authors this year, so really needed to discover new authors!)

Of course I’d forgotten about all this immediately after I’d folded that issue of Brunch.

So coming back to now – I have gone back to the net and check her twitter account and am delighted to trace this article on her blog.  There’s a mouth-watering array of books she’s recommended and I almost squeal  in orgasmic delight (hey, I am not a writer, THIS is what you get!) to discover that one of the authors Seema recommends, has written a series – yes, as many as 17!! - (yes, soooo many many books to savour), and I have not read a single one of them.

I am not into kindle or Ipads or other e-readers – it has to be the old fashioned paperbacks to hold and to gently turn the pages as I savour it.   I go online and order a few on the net.  Three days pass before they are delivered. As I rip the covers I hold hope and a promise of pure delight in my hands. Each book has heft – the one I start with is around 461 pages, and I already know it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship (again, not a writer – no apologies).
I wrap up some of the stuff to do for the day (like it matters, given how out of control it currently is) and then start the book.  As promised, it’s a delight – the storytelling is superior, this one’s already talking about folks who’d lost their jobs in the current melt down, and trouble in wedded paradise and I am hooked.  As I am thumbing through the stuff,  the recesses of my mind, where every pleasure point had been blunted, are slowly awakened and I can gradually feel being reborn again.
Because you see, if this is what I had experienced, and rediscover what I truly enjoy, then surely life was that much more worthwhile fighting for - getting out of the bogs, crawling out of the barrel straight out to take on the world, take my chances against the unfair winds that were tossing me around.

So, I have read a few chapters of the first book and just feeling giddy – I need to stop – and put this piece together – THIS BLOGPOST about what I am experiencing.

And its a familiar feeling I am experiencing. Y'see I am a prolific sharer of things – to the point of irritation.  Anything I’d love I simply had to pass around or ask others to try – mostly books, articles, authors, foods, restaurants, even films sometimes.  And you do this –not simply so that others enjoy this too, but surprisingly like the blurb in the book suggested, so that you could start discussing it with someone.   Sometimes there’d be thanks, but mostly irritation (really, what’s the fuss about – it’s just another book for chrissake!).

But this one column by Seema Goswami was more than that – it was a lifeline, and I am clutching to it with both hands, and saying a silent prayer to the author who generously shared her learnings of what she’d enjoyed the year before, and wanted others to also partake of the joys of those lovely books.

Thanks Seema di – you’re a lifesaver.  (Her blogpost is here, highly recommended)

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