Recycled Book Reading Challenge: Easter Island (A Novel)

Easter Island

I read about this mysterious island in a book titled ‘World Famous Unsolved Mysteries’ several years ago. Since then it has always arrested my interest even at the slightest mention of it. Therefore, when I stumbled upon this book titled “Easter Island: A Novel” at the old book store, I bought it instantly. The highlight on the back cover suggested a tale of mystery where two stories, belonging to two different eras begin to unfold in this mystical island and finds an interesting conclusion as the stories intersect each other.

Synopsis

There are two stories which we get to hear in this book. The first is the story of Elsa Beazely ,her troubled sister Alice, and her second husband Edward, whom she has recently married. This story is set in 1913, when they visit Easter Island for a scientific expedition. Elsa feels that such a trip would help her move on with her past despondencies and also make her sister feel good with a change of atmosphere. The second story, set in 1970s, is that of Greer Farraday, an American botanist who recently lost her husband (her husband was alleged to have stolen her research works to attain fame for himself.) She too has come to Easter island to get rid from her past and complete her research work on flowering plants, for which the secluded ecosystem of Easter Island provides a perfect research ground.

Both these stories progress at a slow pace. Nothing surprising happens. A reader only relishes the experience of staying in a remote, mystery laden Easter Island, with its sparse population, simple lifestyle and unexplained historical folklores. The claim made that the two stories intersect each other in interesting way is misleading. They don’t connect in any significant manner. Perhaps there is no thrill in both the stories; the only delight of the novel is the experience of living in the quiet and esoteric Easter Island.

The Author

Jennifer Vanderbes has been quite earnestly lauded for this debut novel of hers. It also won her Washington Post Book World and Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2003. I gathered she has written quite a lot of non-fiction on the subject of botany. Undoubtedly it reflects in this novel too. The character Greer, the botanist, goes at length to explain about her research on angiosperms (seed-bearing vascular plants) The whole of the second last chapter in this novel is the research paper published by the character Greer at the end of her research. This chapter was quite obtrusive as it broke the flow of what I was reading.

Experiencing the Isolation

The only good thing about this book, as I have stated, was to get a feeling of life in Easter Island. The population is sparse and in the novel it is depicted that everyone knows each other. There are no big factories or industry. Every such good is transported from Chile, once in a month. People place their orders and after a month the supplies arrive on ships. People line up to collect their orders.

The island’s past is shrouded in mystery and people don’t seem to have a clear account of its history. The gigantic statues, called moai, have many versions of folklores as to why and how they were created, although the scientists are unable to agree on any of those theories. Explorers and Voyagers have been bumping upon this island and writing accounts, expressing perplexity over its variety of flora and fauna despite being cut-off from any landmass by thousands of miles. The author invokes commentary from such famous explorers like Captain James Cook, Charles Darwin etc. Additionally she introduces us to rongorongo, an unsolved mystery of Easter Island. Rongorongo is a system of glyphs which appears to be writing or proto-writing and it has not been deciphered yet.

With such a mystical backdrop, the endeavor of Greer, to try to move on with her past seems a fair plot. I liked few lines where the sense of isolation and peace is evoked.

“She became aware of the silence all around her, broken only by the slight slap of water against her boots. Here I am, she thought. In the middle of a crater on the most remote island in the world. Reeds rising all around me; all I can see is sky. Not a voice, not a rustle to be heard.”

“On the rocks, about twenty yards from her, she spotted a plate covered with a metal lid, a halo of steam curling from its edges. It was odd, this abandoned meal, but then again, the island seemed governed by its own rules and rituals”

“She takes a deep breath. There is a moment of silence between them as they watch the port chandlers pack up their goods for the evening, as these last signs of familiar civilization rumble their carts into the distance.”

Conclusion

This story is interesting only if you like Easter Island and a little bit of reading about plants(since we have a botanist character here). The story, in itself is not quite gripping. The pace of story is slow and it is only the mystical feeling of the islands that is appealing. It makes for a fine reading on a sluggish rainy day.

screenshot_2016-12-01-11-42-05_com-android-chrome

(I am glad to post my review for the Recycled Book Reading Challenge, an interesting initiative by a curios reader and explorer, Mliae! Do visit her blog and learn lots about her life experiemnts! PS- Its snowing on her blog these days! 😀 )

 

Yayati: A Fine Classic

A few days back, I read the novel ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham. In that, was a character named Philip, representing a man with unbridled emotions, craving to fathom the meaning of life and in the process succumbing to objects of sense gratification and equating it to be the purpose of life.

Coincidentally the next book I finished today, also dealt with a similar theme. The void I had felt in Maugham’s story seemed to be addressed eloquently in this book.

Synopsis

Yayati is born in a King’s family and since childhood tries to understand what the purpose of life is.

..I was dissatisfied with life and thirsty for something undefined

His mother, afraid that he may leave home to become an ascetic like his elder brother makes him take a vow that he will never accept asceticism. But this intensifies his curiosity even more as he wonders what does a renunciate gain, what pleasure they acquire while sacrificing a life of wealth, comfort, and aristocratic pleasures.

The story becomes dramatic when the characters Devyani and Sharmishtha enter the scene. Both of them are beautiful young women and dream of aristocratic lives. They are friends but Devyani is jealous of Sharmishtha. Devyani by virtue of a coincidence convinces Yayati to marry her and by a clever ploy, traps Sharmistha into a  pact to become her maid servant.The story becomes quite interesting after that as we see the character’s nature unfolding. Yayati seems to succumb to Devyani’s demands just to please her, and she starts drawing full benefit of his infatuation.

Devyani was smiling now. It was not the smile of a lover only, it was obviously tinged with pride. It was the smile of a pretty woman, who in her arrogance thought she could reduce a man to utter subjection

Yayati, who is trying to find happiness through Devyani, soon  realizes she doesn’t love him and so feels drawn towards her servant Sharmishtha. He keeps trying to figure out what will bring him happiness but keeps equating fickle enjoyments as eternal joys. Consequently, he goes on submitting more and more to his carnal impulses and feels perplexed that despite all these he is feeling further deteriorated, dissatisfied.Meanwhile, the drama between Devyani and Sharmishtha intensifies as Devyani begins to see Sharmishtha as a threat between her and Yayati.

Kacha, an enlightened ascetic, and a friend to all these three characters makes appearances at times and his dialogues help a reader feel pacified while contemplating the desperate plight of these three characters. The presence of such a character was what I had found missing in Maugham’s novel. Someone who soothes the reader with some words of wisdom. While in Philip’s case, it had always felt pessimistic, here the presence of Kacha filled that pessimistic void.

..If in the eyes of the world you are a maid, to me you are a gracious queen. The slave is Devyani. She is slave to her splendour, dignity and ego.The man whose soul is prey to selfishness, desire and enjoyment is forever slave in this world.

The Author

The author, V S Khandekar in the preface says that he was inspired to write this tale from Mahabharata(one of  the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India) The story of Yayati forms a subsidiary part of Mahabharata and not its central theme.  Although Khanderkar molded the story somewhat to portray the characters as they ‘appeared to him’ rather than how they had  originally been portrayed. He originally wrote this book in Marathi (the language spoken in the Indian state of Maharashtra) and the book was published in 1959. It won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award(1960) and the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary award, in 1974.

Creative Narration

One interesting thing about this book was its creative narration. The tale progresses with changing perspectives. In first chapter Yayati is the narrator, in the next Devyani and in the next to that, Sharmishtha.In this way, it keeps changing. The same scene which unfolds from the eyes of Yayati is unfolded with a wholly different perspective from the eyes of Devyani in the next chapter. It renders a fascinating effect in the mind of readers. Every subsequent chapter feels like a revelation as one gets to see the ways different characters are interpreting the same flow of events.

A Classic Tale of Lust

The tagline of this book had made me a bit skeptical in the beginning but I soon realized that this book carries no obscenity of language. Having been inspired from a classical poetry, it uses poetic language in its narration. Furthermore, lust has been addressed here not only in terms of Yayati’s carnal indulgences but also in terms of an individual’s unbridled thirst to satisfy such dark desires as jealousy, hatred  and, sense of superiority. Every character becomes a representative of one of these malignant yearnings which make them slaves of what Maugham had called ‘Human Bondage’ in his book.

Conclusion

All in all, I found the book quite gripping, interesting , thoughtful and enlightening. After a long time, I got hold of a book that was balanced in every aspect- drawing the plot, sketching the characters, and delivering a message while maintaining the standard of language. I would highly recommend this book to any keen reader who likes books with philosophical themes.

“Oh man, desire is never satisfied by indulgence.

Like the sacrificial fire, it ever grows with every offering.”

yayati

 

Recycled Book Reading Challenge: The Prophet

“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror

But you are eternity and you are the mirror”

The Prophet is a poetic narrative of philosophical thoughts. Author Khalil Gibran is a Lebanese writer and this work is considered to be his masterpiece.He introduces us to an old man, the prophet, a wanderer and a mystic, who is leaving the island of Orphalese to go back to his homeland.

As the ship is seen arriving towards the island after twelve years of wait, people of the island surround the old man to bid him farewell.They are sad that he will leave them soon. In their sadness, they urge the old man to share with them his wisdom before he goes, and the old man is pleased to speak all he knows.

Yet this we ask ere you leave us, that you speak to us and give us your truth.And we will give it unto our children, and they unto their children, and it shall not perish.

Then one by one citizens ask him to tell about the different aspects of life. What the old man responds is all this book is about.

It is a short book with only 96 pages, of which 8 pages have abstract artworks. The thoughts shared in the book are profound and often offers a different perspective of looking at things. It is to be read slowly and the ideas should be let to form an enigmatic painting in the mind. I will share some excerpts, which I readily admired reading.

And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.

.

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.

You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.

.

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts:

And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.

And in much of your talking thinking is half murdered.

For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.

.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

 

I am grateful to Mliae for hosting this wonderful challenge. If you have a stock of old unread books waiting to be read, do become a part of the Recycled Book Reading Challenge.

The_Prophet_Cover

Recycled Book Reading Challenge: Three Men In a Boat

There are three young men and their dog-Montmorency.They are all idling, smoking tobacco, except the dog, of course, and discussing how bad they are- “bad” from a medical point of view.So they decide to go on a long boating trip to heal themselves.That’s the plot of this classic novel, broadly.

Jerome K Jerome, the author of this tale, referred to as “J” in the story, is quite an amusing narrator.In the opening chapter of the book,he tells about discovering in a medical journal, a liver ailment, whose one of the symptoms is, ‘a general disinclination to work of any kind’. He gets convinced he has this disease- since childhood.And he gets aggrieved to recall his old times when everyone thrashed him for being lazy while not realizing it was because of the liver!

From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness

Similarly, each of them discovers having some or the other obscure ailments and then come up with the notion of going on a weekend boating trip up the river Thames, to ‘restore their mental equilibrium’.

What we want is rest, said Harris.
Rest and a complete change, said George. The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.

Their trip starts from Kingston and continues till Oxford- from where they take a return course.The story was intended to be a travel narrative and J tells elaborately about the places they pass through, as they row their boats.

However, the more interesting aspect is the comic narrative of events. J describes the humor in their planning and preparation of the trip and subsequently how they face the hard and good times later in the journey.Additionally, Jerome shares some charming philosophical thoughts describing the life and the beauty of nature.

We are creatures of the sun, we men and women. We love light and life. That is why we crowd into the towns and cities, and the country grows more and more deserted every year. In the sunlight in the daytime, when Nature is alive and busy all around us, we like the open hill-sides and the deep woods well enough: but in the night, when our Mother Earth has gone to sleep, and left us waking, oh! the world seems so lonesome, and we get frightened, like children in a silent house. Then we sit and sob, and long for the gas-lit streets, and the sound of human voices, and the answering throb of human life. We feel so helpless and so little in the great stillness, when the dark trees rustle in the night-wind. There are so many ghosts about, and their silent sighs make us feel so sad. Let us gather together in the great cities, and light huge bonfires of a million gas-jets, and shout and sing together, and feel brave.

But his mind keeps rambling as he narrates.You must have a friend who is talkative and tells stories starting with-“You know once what happened..” And then gets everyone around him involved in his funny narrative. J is a similar kind of person.By the time you would have finished the book you would have read many amusing incidents which  J recollects from the past.

This book is delightful! A book to be savored!An absolute Classic! The book will keep you smiling all the time.I wanted to read the book since a long time because I had already read parts of the book in following ways-

1.An excerpt from this book was titled as  “Packing for a Picnic” and was included as a chapter in our English Course Book during Middle School.It was an amusing narrative of how packing made J scared because he always forgot to pack his toothbrush.

2.I found another excerpt included in  “The Greatest Literary works of All Time”, a book I had purchased some time ago.This particular excerpt was about J’s uncle Podger, who always boasted that he could do a task without anyone’s help but instead would make the whole house go mad because he will keep messing up the things.

So, I had a fairly nice impression of the book and wanted to read the full of it! Thankfully I read it the last month and was glad to have added it to my “Finished Reading” list.I am grateful to Mliae for hosting this lovely challenge which has ensured that I will be finishing at least one book every month.
If you want to be a part of it, do visit her blog and get acquainted with the challenge.

three

Albert Einstein at School

In what year Einstein,”asked the history teacher, “did the Prussians defeat the French at Waterloo?”

“I don’t know,sir,”

“Why don’t you know? You’ve been told often enough.”

“I must have forgotten.”

“Did you ever try to learn?” asked Braun.

“No, sir,” Albert replied with his usual unthinking honesty.

“Why not?”

“I can’t see any point in learning dates.One can always look them up in a book.”

Mr Braun was speechless for a few moments.

“You amaze me, Einstein.” he said at last. “Don’t you realise that one can always look most things up in books? That applies to all the facts you learn at school.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then I suppose you don’t see any point in learning facts.”

“Frankly, sir, I don’t, ” said Albert.

“Then you don’t believe in education at all?”

“Oh, yes sir, I do.I don’t think learning is education.”

“In that case,” said the history teacher with heavy sarcasm, “perhaps you will be so kind as to tell the class the Einstein theory of education.”

Albert flushed.

I think it’s not facts that matter, but ideas,” he said. “I don’t see the point in learning the dates of battles, or even which of the armies killed more men. I’d be more interested in learning why those soldiers were trying to kill each other.”

“That’s enough,” Mr Braun’s eyes were cold and cruel. “We don’t want a lecture from you, Einstein.You will stay in for an extra period today, although I don’t imagine it will do you much good.It won’t do the school any good, either. You are a disgrace, I don’t know why you continue to come.”

“It’s not my wish, sir,” Albert pointed out.

“Then you are an ungrateful boy and ought to be ashamed of yourself.I suggest you ask your father to take you away.”

Albert felt miserable when he left the school that afternoon.”I don’t think I’ll ever pass the exams for the school diploma,” he told his friend.

When his cousin Elsa came to Munich, he shared his despondency with her.

“I am sure you could learn enough to pass the exams,Albert, if you tried,” she said, “I know lots of boys who are much more stupid than you are, who get through.They say you don’t have to know anything- you don’t have to understand what you’re taught, just be able to repeat it in the exams.”

“That’s the whole trouble,” said Albert. “I’m no good at learning things by heart.”

“You don’t need to be good at it.Anyone can learn like a parrot.You just don’t try.And yet I always see you with a book under your arms,” added Elsa.”What is the one you’re reading?”

“A book on geology.”

Geology? Rocks and things? Do you learn that?”

“No.We have hardly any science at school.”

“Then why are you studying it?”

“Because I like it. Isn’t that a good enough reason?”

Elsa sighed.

“You’re right, of course, Albert, ” she said. “But it won’t help with your diploma.”

                                                                       -Excerpt from “The Young Einstein” by Patrick Pringle 

 

(I was lured to write this excerpt today, because in the afternoon, I had called one of my friends, Nitish, and I was amused to learn that he had been studying a book on Geology. I told him he had made me remember young Einstein’s story!

As I revisited this old chapter, later in the evening and read this episode once again, I  felt like sharing this story with everyone!

I like Einstein’s passion to learn, that is, in the spirit of knowing the essence of things, rather than memorising and repeating the facts. It is a blessing to be curious that way! But this passion comes with its own set of woes, which this tale very nicely captures.)

school

(Image Source: Link )

 

 

Murphy’s Law

I recently bumped upon a book called “The Complete Murphy’s Law” by Arthur Bloch.It just took me thirty seconds of skimming to make me rush to the counter to buy it,lest someone else saw it.

What made the book so interesting? Well..it was after a longtime I laughed so much reading a book.A collection of ‘laws’ like the Murphy’s,it takes the reader into a world of insights,through utterly bone tickling laws! Here’s a peek I couldn’t resist to share-

 

Ade’s Law- Anybody can win-unless there happens to be a second entry.

Airplane Law- When the plane you are on is late,the plane you want to transfer to is on time.

Babcock’s Law- If it can be borrowed and it can be broken,you will borrow it and you will break it.

Cannon’s Cogent Comment- The leak in the roof is never in the same location as the drip.

Carpenters Law- If you have only one nail,it will bend.

First Law of Debate- Don’t argue with a fool,people might not know the difference.

The First Discovery of Christmas Morning- Batteries not included

Extended Murphy’s Law- If a series of events can go wrong,it will do in the worst possible sequence.

Rule of Failure- If at first you don’t succeed,destroy all evidence that you have tried.

Glyme’s Formula for Success- The secret of success is sincerity.Once you can fake that,you’ve got it made.

Herblock’s Law- If it’s good,they will stop making it.

Issawi’s Law of Consumption Patterns- Other people’s patterns of expenditure and consumption are highly irrational and slightly immoral.

Jacob’s Law- To err is human-to blame it on someone else is even more human.

Kaplan’s Law of the Instrument- Give a small boy a hammer and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.

Laws of Gardening- Other people’s tools work only in other people’s yards.

Miksch’s Law- If a string has one end,then it has another end.

The N-1 Law- If you need four screws for the job,the first three are easy to find.

Skydivers’ Law of Hesitation- He who hesitates shall inherit the earth.

 

Haha.Hope you had a good time reading these few pick ups I compiled from the book.It’s weekend again,but I have lots of works lined up.We are organizing TEDx event in our University tomorrow.I am a part of creative/communications team and we have been working on lots of digital designs.Our team, that was handling the crafts works for stage design,worked whole night and they made lots of lovely decorative items.

I really wanted to make a post this morning,as I got some free time and flipped through this book,I had purchased some days back.I just wanted to share a smile with everyone! (:

Lately I have become more of a ‘reader’ at WordPress than a ‘writer’.I have been frequenting the WordPress Reader amidst my cluttered work hours,just to take a break and delve into the world of lovely bloggers!I find peace and solace in that. I surf across the posts from all the admirable bloggers I am following.It feels so amazing to read the different thoughts and expressions, all conveyed through a fine amalgamation of eloquent words.It just drives away all the worries and anxiety that comes with work.

Life feels so better with all the bloggers around! Thank you so much to you!

Have a very happy weekend!

three

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls

It rained today; enticing me to delve into the philosophical space.I was gazing through the dampened bus window.As the rain drops seeped over the scene of fleeting landscape,I suddenly remembered this line.

Mostly remembered as the title of the popular book by Earnest Hemingway,my reason of admiration for this phrase comes from the primeval reason- the philosophy behind this sentence.

I quote here the piece of writing in the original words used by Donne.I find the description very sublime,compassionate and soothing.

“For Whom the Bell Tolls?”

“No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

– Devotions upon Emergent Occasions(Meditation XVII) by John Donne,1664.

churchyard-in-the-rain-1883(1).jpg!Blog