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.

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Recycled Book Reading Challenge: The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

(This is the first book I am reviewing for the Challenge, initiated by Mliae.If you would like to endorse this interesting concept , do visit her blog!)

This book is a racy read. Jim Corbett is a fine storyteller, who writes in simple language, recreating the scene with utmost vivacity. He talks about the episodes that entail hunting down the leopard which has become a man eater.(He has been sent by the officials of the erstwhile British Indian Empire to save the people by hunting down the leopard)  Why did the leopard become a man-eater? Because there was once a horrible incident of plague and many dead bodies had to be disposed of downhill(the place Rudrapayag lies in the foothills of the Himalayas) The leopard having tasted human flesh that time got addicted to it, and now it has started attacking the people in the villages of the hill.

The leopard hunts at night. This is the period around 1925.Technology hasn’t yet reached in these parts of the hills. People still live in huts, use kerosene lamps to light up during nights, and have to go into the wild to fetch water. Additionally, Rudraprayag lies en route the pilgrim road that links Haridwar to Badrinath, hence the travelling pilgrims often take halt there and stay at pilgrim quarters, which are nothing but open shades.

Now imagine what if a man-eating leopard is operating in such an area.People are vulnerable, unsafe and unarmed. The leopard is wicked, ferocious, powerful, and has become clever over the years – how to outwit human beings and hunt them down.

The hills are rugged. There are no roads yet on which vehicles run. These dirt paths are mostly travelled on foot. The leopard is killing humans within an area of 500 square miles. This expanse of landscape also includes a wide river in between, connected by a hanging bridge. Now this is a really vast area when you can only travel by foot. While the leopard is in a man hunting spree, sometimes attacking in a village 50 miles away from its previous kill. There is no phone or telegram system within the village. An attack can only be reported to the patwari by a man carrying the news by himself, walking on foot, or riding a horse at best.

Jim Corbett narrates this exciting story of hunting down this dangerous beast, which escapes his many traps and gun shots. Perhaps the leopard mocks Corbett for his fragility. It even tries to attack Corbett several times in sinister ways!

If you love reading adventure and thriller and also have the interest to know about new places, do read it.Jim Corbett writes eloquently. He will also help you get a tour of the beautiful villages in the foothills of the Himalayas. He talks about the innocence, humility and the rich culture of people in these hills of India with reverence and sincerity. He always calls them “Our people”, despite himself being a foreigner.He elucidates this elaborate sequence of events while his stay in Rudraprayag and how he could finally hunt down this man-eating leopard, which had terrorized the hill people for 8 long years.

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Virtual Vacations

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

– George R.R. Martin (American novelist, Author of ‘Game of Thrones’)

***

Yesterday I read a nice post by Kim Richardson, about her visit (in 1996) to Abu Simbel, an architectural Marvel in Egypt. (Kim has written about many of her trips in Africa and Europe, with stunningly attractive pictures, she took there.Do visit her blog for more.)

Reading her describe how being at that ancient site filled her with excitement, I began to get reminiscences of my virtual memory attached with Egypt. I have not been there in real, but I had spent a considerable amount of my virtual life there , by reading a novel based on Egypt. It was a book called “Nefertiti” by Michelle Moran.

It was a summer vacation and I was looking forward to experience some new place through reading. Having a very active imagination, I often plan for such virtual vacations for myself.(When I can’t travel for real) I pick up a novel set in a particular country or locale, which I want to gain an impression of.Then I spend weeks living in that locale, as I continue to read the story.It not only exposes me to that place- their weather, their climate,their geography,their hills and the rivers, but also transports me to a different period of time, if the tale is a historical one.

I get to feel the behaviour of the people in those places-  the way they talk, the kind of humor they cherish, the things they admire, the things they despise and their attitude towards life. Additionally, I observe their manners, etiquette, their customs and their rituals. A further learning is about the social order and community life in those places and those times.

Just as I read Nefertiti to experience ancient Egypt, I have read several other books for the same reason of experiencing a particular place and time. One was “Genghis Khan” by Sam Djang, which helped me go back to 12th Century and experience life in Central Asia. I love the rain forests and the adventures that exist in their wilderness.  I experienced them when I started reading “Congo” by Michael Crichton.I confronted the dark alleys, the hidden cafes, the desolate meeting places, the strange men with powers attributed to their dark businesses in the city of Bombay,  through Gregory David Robert’s “Shantaram”.That was one quirky vacation if I can call so!

In this present phase, I am having a great time exploring space! This month, I had an exciting trip exploring the enigma of Cosmos, with Arthur C Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” Then I had a hair-raising experience of inter galactic travel through wormholes, via Carl Sagan’s “Contact”. My third venture of space exploration is going on now, and the book through which I am touring, is aptly titled “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

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(Image Source: Link )

 

Remembering the Visit to The Sun Temple

“Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human”

— Rabindranath Tagore (Indian poet and Nobel Laureate, 1861-1941)

***

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I tried to regard the scene from the perspective of my younger brother, who was seeing this magnificent relic from history for the first time.Till that moment, he had only seen it in his history books.

We were standing in the vicinity of giant archaic monument- The Sun Temple at Konark in the state of Orissa (India). I had been there previously, several years ago, the memory of the last visit was fresh in my mind.

During my previous visit, I was probably 14 years old. I was there with my father, my sister and my elder brother.That time, when our bus had brought us near this tourist site, my excitement had knew no bounds.Old things- artifacts and monuments from yore, thrills me immensely.

Just finding a simple archaic book in library escalates my fascination to heights, then  imagine in what a mesmeric state I would have gone into, standing there in front of that monument, which had every essence of archaism  imbued in it.

As I had entered the exquisite compound in that previous visit, a colossal sculpture of what looked like a dragon over an elephant had caught my gaze. A tourist guide was explaining about it to an entourage of visitors some distance away.I could make out his words, though it had required me to strain my ears a bit ” ..the man lying below symbolises Humanity, but above it is an Elephant, signifying that Buddhism is superior to it.Elephants were used to depict Buddhism.But on top of that is the ferocious roaring lion, symbolizing Hinduism, and that, it is superior to them all..”

When I was walking on that same path again, 10 years later, with my younger brother this time, I could catch his interest upon seeing the same sculpture of man, elephant and the lion.I  could hear the echo of the words I had heard from that tourist guide in my mind. I started explaining it to him, with excitement.Dance_Pavilion,_Konârak_-_Lion.jpg

 

When we were inside the prime temple compound, a feeling of awe and wonder started surging within me again as the sensation of thrill, of being around archaic things started to crawl in. I stood before the temple, the old decrepit structure, now supported by iron columns to prevent it from collapsing. I recalled from my memory having read about it in history  books.

Built in the 13th Century by King Narsimhadev-I, this temple was dedicated to the Sun God.The temple was made in the shape of a vast chariot, the wheels and horses sculpted on its side.The temple faced east, such that the first rays of the sun in the morning traced the path in between the pillars at the entrance and reached straight to the main chamber, falling upon the deity of Sun God, sculpted inside in the sacred position.

I recalled from my previous visit, the information, that over the years  the temple had been pillaged for the ancient sculptures of the deities. The manhandling, and also because of the geological reasons, it was crumbling down.The iron beams were installed to protect it from breaking. Furthermore,  in 1903 the whole interior chamber of the temple was ordered to be filled with sand and its main door sealed with big bricks made of rocks to further reinforce support and save  it from falling down.

I walked again towards the main door, where the sunlight used to enter without any hindrance once,  there,  nothing could enter now as only big blocks of stone bricks laid closely thrust blocking the entrance solidly.

As my brother went about exploring the spacious temple compound I sat on the old stone stairs just gazing at this old piece of historical remnant, silently standing without any emotion.The sun was setting behind it.I could see young people studying the architecture, families taking photographs of each other, children running around and playing cheerfully. The sun was warm and dizzy.I slowly felt every voice around me starting to fade.All the signs of modern world disappearing, the iron beams that supported the temple vanished, the clouds ran amok like a time lapsed film and I saw it! Ancient people walking around the temple, clad in white loin clothes, with the ceremonial threads hung across their shoulders, their foreheads smeared with holy symbols. I looked back, and saw dancing girls, in their adorned yellow saree with red borders, and white flowers curled up in their hair.They were performing Oddissi, a classical dance form, to the beats of mridangam, a barrel-shaped double-headed drum ,an ancient musical instrument. They sang songs in an archaic language.I turned around and saw the sky above turn dark, then suddenly, light sprouting like a blooming flower from the clouds, a strand of light, golden in color raced from the heavens and traced its path along the walkway, passing by the lion and elephant sculpture.The dancers greeted it with their dance. The musicians eulogised it in their songs.The ray moved swiftly and entered the main door of the temple, the rock bricks were no longer there, it reached over  the solemn deity of the Sun God, illuminating the chamber and the priests showered flowers upon it, rang the holy bells and chanted the sacred mantras. The temple was back to life. Back with the people who had created it and whose lives revolved around it.

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***

When we were departing, I asked my brother what things he liked about the temple.He went on to tell with animation how much he delighted seeing the actual magnanimity of it which hadn’t become apparent in the books. He went on to tell of his admiration for the intricate designs carved all across the monument in fine details and admirable symmetries.

As we were boarding the vehicle to return back, I turned to take a one last look at the monument. For more than 800 years, it has stood here.It has seen several weathers come and go, land forms change, people come and go- it has been the witness of mankind from the age of kings to this age of technology. It has grown old now, its wall has eroded, its frame has cracked, it is feared to crumble down, more beams have been added for its support.

I began to perceive the monument as an old abandoned person.Very weak, sick and not willing to talk with anyone.It had its glorious years, with its people who had created it and whose lives revolved around it.They were all long since, dead.It was the only survivor.And it had lost all interest in life.It now didn’t bother who was walking around.These new people were anyways very different and it didn’t belong to this era of them.It laid solemnly gazing at the sky unaffected by the sound of cheers and the strange flashes of light these people produced- recalling the years it actually belonged to, when the morning ray of light used to enliven everything around it.

(18th April has been declared by UNESCO as the World Heritage Day.When I came to know of this information, I at once sat on my computer to make a post about my visit to the Sun Temple, which forms a very dear part of my memory.My first visit there had been in 2004, then again in 2014.The Sun Temple was declared as UNESCO’s World Heritage site in 1984 and is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of India)

 

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Text on the slab near the gateway of the temple reads: ‘To preserve this superb specimen of Old Indian architecture, the interior was filled in by order of The Hon’ble J.A. Bourdillon C.S.I Lieutenant Governor of Bengal A.D 1903′

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The wheels of the temple are sundials which can be used to calculate time accurately to a minute

 

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The Sun Temple Compound: The iron beams for support can be seen protruding from the left side of the temple

 

(Images not owned by me, All images sourced from: Wikipedia)

 

 

Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner: The Travelling Library

As I was rummaging through my old trunk filled with books, I was thrilled to see some classics lying there, unattended since quite a long time.I have to relocate so I have been going through all those closed boxes,trunks and bookshelf, where dust and insects have seemingly constructed a housing colony of their own.

Few of the books I noticed had got weak and fragile.I feared their pages might start falling off if mishandled even a bit.I decided to get them hard bound at the book binding shop.

In the evening,as I carried the satchel of old books with me, happy that they will look robust after the binding was done,I was interrupted by a friend who asked me where was I headed to.
“To the book binding shop, ” I said with delight.
“But there is no binding shop, aren’t you aware?”
“What ! There was one besides that electronics repairing store, a young man used to run the shop, I remember”
“It’s been years he closed down, must not be getting any business probably”
“Really” I was surprised “No book binding shop nearby?”
“None I know, nobody needs it anymore I guess”
***
This episode unfolded yesterday evening and I had been thinking about it since morning. True, I myself now read most of the books on Kindle and search more fervently on Google rather than my thick encyclopedias. Perhaps we are living in the phase of transition.Our very next generation may view paper books with curiosity; and wonder how could we be comfortable with that, much like us, who would gape at the big floppy disks, 1.44 MB memory size, our fathers used to work with!
***
Mandi wrote this beautiful story as a part of the challenge “Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner, ” which she is avidly pursuing! The story struck a chord with me as she narrated this curious tale of future generation teens who accidentally find a library and start speculating as to what sort of thing it is! I couldn’t help but smile thinking this is exactly what had been going on in my mind.I invite you to read this nice story by her, titled “The Travelling Library”.I really liked it and I am sure you too will appreciate the essence of the changing times, this story captures.

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Thanks to Roger Shippfor hosting FFftPP. Today’s sentence to be included is: “Thoseare the directions…”

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“These rocks are cool,” Tanya sad climbing on top a stack of rocks. “I wonder how and why they are formed like this?”

Tanya’s friend Crystal chimed in, ” Yeah, I wonder too. But we’re in the middle of nowhere and have no phone reception so we can’t even Google the answer. I’m questioning why my friend Tyler told me we should takeparticulardirections to see these rocks.”

Suddenly, before Tanya and Crystal’s eyes a building appeared. It was all glass but the inside was filled with millions of books and scrolls.

Crystal tried to pronounce the word on the front of the building. “It’s a library,” Tanya said. “It’s where people used to research before Google and the Internet. I’ve never seen a library. I remember…

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William Wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!

(These were the opening lines that introduced me to what was to become one of my most close-to-the-heart poems in later life.Additionally, it introduced me to the poet extraordinaire’ – William Wordsworth.I still remember our lean and old English teacher, also the Vice Principal of our school, eulogizing these opening lines in his rather loud and piercing voice,as he had begun the class that day.He was excited about teaching us this literary masterpiece and had failed to notice he was speaking quite loudly; which made our Principal sir, who was incidentally teaching in the next classroom come and stand at the door,smiling, until our Vice Principal took notice; and to whom our Principal sir had gestured in a rather amiable way to ‘teach in a lower voice’!)

Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

(I had become fascinated with the way Wordsworth wrote.His lines had a lucid flow and the pictures he painted with words created vivid imagination.I had begun searching for more of his poems. I was thrilled when I got hold of his another masterpiece- I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud.I have read both these poems so many times, I often quote from them, and often write them, just to get a feel of the beautiful lines. )

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:

A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

(Very recently I watched a BBC documentary that had dramatized parts of his life and that gave me a glimpse of his personality.He was a wanderer, and he would row across the lake, walk into the forests, climb up the hills, stay inside abandoned caves- all alone watching,observing,feeling and composing.It was the Nature- The Magnificent,The Epitome of Beauty and The Abode of all the Powers that motivated him.He would spend several days in Natural shelter away from home and the lines will dawn to him, as if Nature spoke through him!)

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:

(I just couldn’t resist to write this post as I saw that 7th of April happens to be his date of birth.I am tempted to mention a few lines from Wikipedia, like-

“William Wordsworth was a major English  poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798).”

“The second of five children, he was born in Wordsworth House in Cumberland,part of the scenic region in northwestern England known as the Lake District. His sister, the poet and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth, to whom he was close all his life, was born the following year, and the two were baptised together.”

“He returned to Hawkshead for the first two summers of his time at Cambridge, and often spent later holidays on walking tours, visiting places famous for the beauty of their landscape. In 1790 he went on a walking tour of Europe, during which he toured the Alps extensively, and visited nearby areas of France, Switzerland, and Italy.”)

Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

(Wordsworth gave the definition of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” How true and profound! Poetry, I believe, is the most powerful form of expression.Words are confined to the boundaries of their meanings,but poets make them ascend to a higher level of abstraction, where they cease to have boundaries , and carry a greater intensity of emotions! I truly respect Wordsworth for his love of Nature and the memorable verses in which he has immortalized his thoughts.I am hopeful, every admirer of poetry will cherish his works and find his poems a true Literary treasure gratefully passed on to us!)

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—

I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

-The Solitary Reaper, by William Wordsworth

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William Wordsworth

Beneath The Apple Tree

I looked up above, as I laid

Beneath the apple tree,

And wondered how nice it’ll be,

To get those apples for free.

But the apples were too high to reach,

So all my hopes got lost

When suddenly in my mind it came

Great Newton’s age old thought.

That when he sat below the tree

As useless as I was,

Without any effort, or initiative,

An apple did really fall.

Newton said that he was the one

Who first actually had found

That earth pulls the apple towards itself

And makes it fall on ground.

Having faith in Mr Newton

I laid there as I was

The noon changed to night,

(The sky flooded with moonlight)

But the apple did not fall!

And then I began to doubt

If really Newton said it true

Or was it for only name and fame

To gain his own fortune!

Just then from above did fall

An apple that made me sicken!

For it emitted a chokin’ smell

And throughout it was worm stricken!

Within a flash I speculated

That no book has ever mentioned

That what Newton actually did

With the apple that had fallen.

Now I know he must have crushed it

And took out his all frustration

Because just like mine, his apple too was

Dead decayed and rotten!

So commit to memory my new theory

And never have it forgotten

That all the apples that hang on tree

Are not pulled by gravitation.

Through the years I have known

That among the apples that hang on tree

The gravity brings down,

On the ground

Only the decayed apples for free!

-r_prab

( Since a young age , scientists and their curious tales have fascinated me. And Newton, is perhaps, one of my favourite figures in that respect. This poem was written when I was in high school.It was an evening when I had got bored solving Physics problems.Next day I had read it aloud to the amusement of my classmates, after which it got out from the closed pages (seven years later), only a few days back! The Literary Club of my University invited poetry contribution and I sent this old poem of mine. Today I was exhilarated seeing my poem posted on their elite blog, LITERATI! This encouraged me to share it on my blog as well! I am glad to share it!)

 

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(Img source:-  http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/496xn/p02mpn0h.jpg)