The Strange Case of Billy Biswas (A Novel)

“The most futile cry of man is his wish to be understood”

First thing first- The novel has been very nicely written. The language is simple and the articulation is neat. I admired the vocabulary and sentence forms the author used in his narration.

Synopsis

The narrator meets a person called Billy and becomes friends with him instantly. Both of them were students in America when they first meet. Billy is an affable guy with an aura of charm, delighting every one with his quick wits and engaging conversations. Soon, destiny brings them back to India, and Billy slowly begins to lose his glamour as he starts brooding upon his identity in a philosophical sense. He feels dejected by the excessive materialism he sees around him-people hankering for money, unnecessary showoffs and extravagant lifestyles. I can explain his dismay in the words of Dave Ramsey — ‘We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.’

He decides to marry and expects life to become cheerful again but it does not help.(I agree with this fact) He only becomes more irritable and quarrelsome. Being an anthropologist, he often goes to expeditions to remote villages to study the lifestyle of tribal people. During one such visit, to a village in central India something remarkable happens and he disappears.

The Author

When I was reading the reviews of this book, I found many reviewers pointing out that the author has unjustly remained an obscure figure despite being such a fine writer. His caliber can be appreciated from the fact that he has already been honoured with India’s one of the most notable literary awards (Sahitya Academy Award) in 1982 for his novel The Last Labyrinth. He earned his MS degree from MIT, USA and hence his novels always carry some reminiscence from those days. His family lived in the holy city of Varanasi, which influenced his philosophical cravings.

In Quest for a Meaningful Life

What I loved in the novel was this theme, where a smart, educated guy is driven by his longing to find a meaningful life. I believe in simplicity and find verbose lifestyle quite obnoxious.Therefore, I was quite compassionate towards the character, Billy , who held a strong determination to go against the crowd, the conventional life, because he knew his inner being, his soul will not be satisfied unless he followed his heart. In course, he commits mistakes, learns his lessons when it is too late and conducts acts which only aggrandizes his perils, but it is all these imperfections which gives a more human touch to his character. The portrayal of the fact that the society suppresses such people is also an important part of the theme.

The strange case of Billy Biswal had at last been disposed of. It had been disposed of in the only manner that a human society knows of disposing its rebels, its seers, its true lovers.

I liked the mystical touch the author has given to the whole episode. Billy’s encounter with the tribe rituals, the ancient ruins and the folklores the tribal people live by, makes an intriguing read. You will like the character of the narrator, who tries his best to do everything for his friend Billy, but just one little mistake by him jeopardizes Billy’s extraordinary endeavour. The only element I felt missing was the final conclusion. There is no conclusive idea in the novel, just a narration of the state of affairs which anyways is, thought provoking.

Conclusion

This book is a quick read (240 pages). I finished it in two days in 3 sessions. I will recommend it to anyone who likes such topics as following one’s heart and also who likes philosophical themed stories.The novel is rich in imparting a feeling of adventure, suspense and curiosity. It will surely make an interesting read under the cozy winter sun.

“This is where I belong. This is what I have always dreamt of”

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Longest Time Span to Write a Composition

Yesterday I was researching about some south Indian Literatures. Ever since I read Yayati, I51vujhtlpl-_sx323_bo1204203200_ got curious to discover more such novels from the South Indian Library. I came across a book called Khasakkinte Itihasam(The Legend of Khasak) a Malayalam(language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala) Novel by OV Vijayan. What caught my attention was to discover the fact that it took the author 12 years to complete the novel. It seemed extraordinary as the book had just around 200 pages. Why would it take 12 years to write 200 pages? Couldn’t it have been written in one year? I could feel  that the author must have put in lots of thoughts and so would have developed the novel slowly slowly over time.

I wondered about the longest time span I have taken to write a composition. I only write small articles, blog posts, poems and the longest span I could remember of holding back before publishing my composition was 2 days. Oftentimes, I am too eager to publish my post and try to finish it as soon as possible. I don’t even proofread it properly. Something keeps nagging me at the back of mind- ‘Oh it’s alright, Just publish it’ And I do publish it. And serenity dawns in my mind. Only then I read my composition most attentively on the live page and then panic to correct the errors.

It always enchants me to hear of people who take a long period of time to publish something. I am yet ignorant of the experience of devotedly working on a composition, holding back the temptation to share, and publishing it only after taking it to perfection. But I do aspire to do it sometime. Have you ever worked devotedly for any composition, that took you a very long time to finish it?

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(Image Source: Link)

Recycled Book Reading Challenge: Amsterdam

Aha! So here I am to tell you about a recycled book I got to read. It’s called ‘Amsterdam’ and is written by Ian McEwan. This was the first book I read of McEwan. At the old book store, the book cover had caught my attention. It appeared like a thrilling tale with mystery and suspense. Furthermore, the declaration made on the book cover that the book won the 1998 Booker Prize added to my conviction that the story must be great to have deserved such honors.

As I read the book, soon I found my pace slacken becuase of lack of a gripping plot. The characters didn’t appear very interesting to me and their personalities didn’t make me eager to know about their endeavours. One of them was a music composer and the other a newspaper editor. They entered into a pact that if one of them will acquire any terminal illness, the other will help by aiding in quick demise of the other to avoid a painful existence. This, they had deduced, after seeing the horrible conditions suffered by an amorous lady who had died of cancer. This lady had dated both these men and so both of them held sympathies for her.

In the course of the story, a battle ensues between both these guys concerning the issue of morality. What one sees as the other one’s moral duty , the other dismisses it with contempt. What I could gather from it was the hypocrisy ingrained in people, to only see bad in others while justifying their own wrongs.

All in all, the book was quick to finish. The narrative wasn’t quite gripping , nor was the plot. The twists weren’t thrilling nor did I feel like taking much out of the novel. Mostly, after finishing a novel I will have plenty of quotes picked up, or some incidents to talk about or some interesting sequence in the story to think about. Unfortunately I didn’t find any such thing in this book. While I was searching online to read some published reviews, I found one published in The Guardian. I could’t agree more to the words of Sam Jordison

The fact that it won the Booker will make many people (and more and more of them in the future) assume that Amsterdam must be McEwan’s best work, when it is far from it. And if Amsterdam were the only book of his I’d read, I’d never want to read another – and so miss out on one of our best contemporary novelists.

(I am glad to post my review for the Recycled Book Reading Challenge, an initiative by Mliae! Do visit her blog to become a part and also meet bloggers who are a part of this reading challenge! )

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Recycled Book Reading Challenge

Writing about books is always a welcome thing to do. Mliae, a genial and lively personality, who has myriads of stories to share, is a traveller, reader and a friendly blogger. She  started this interesting concept of “Recycled Book Reading Challenge”(She announced about it at the beginning of the year during Jan itself, although I found out about it only recently!)  She describes the essence of this initiative on her introductory post

Book clubs and running out to purchase the newest hot item on the shelf has a tendency to get expensive after awhile, so I would like to focus on used or ‘recycled’ books. Remember that library book you bought for 10 cents? Or the second hand store find for 25 cents? Those are the ones about which I’m speaking. We all have them…some, like me, have a closet full just waiting to be read.

Today, I rummaged though my bookshelf and chose 12 recycled books that I will write about for this challenge.

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I had read certain pages of some these books initially, but once there came a break , I never got chance to get back to them. Now I am hopeful I will complete them through this challenge.

These books are-

Chariots of Gods – Erich Von Daniken

The Winged Word – David Greene

The Greatest Show on Earth – Richard Dawkins

Do Butlers Burgle Banks? – P G Wodehouse

The Greatest Stories Never Told – Rick Beyer

A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle

The Prophet- Khalil Gibran

The Age of Innocence- Edith Wharton

Congo – Michael Chrichton

Galileo’s Daughter –  Dava Sobel

Three Men In a Boat-  Jerome K Jerome

The Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag- Jim Corbett

If you would like to be a part of it you can see the guidelines here- Recycled Book Reading Challenge
Thank you!

Have a Happy Weekend!

The Opening Lines

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“Long long time ago, in the land of Transylvania,where silence reigned the hours past sunset..” .. and thus the  story’s curtains open up! Every storyteller has that gift of drawing attention from the very first line or the very first paragraph of his or her narration. This thought got me curious to search how some of the best storytellers had started their stories.What was that first tint of imagery they presented to their readers that commenced that adventurous journey of experiencing their story till the end.I searched through the few books I have in my collection and  compiled this list of the opening lines of a few of them.Hope some of them will bring some good reading memories back!

 

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergy-man, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

-Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol 

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

There were four of us— George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.   We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were— bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.

-Jerome K.Jerome.Three Men in a Boat

Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria. Wait a minute. ‘Once upon a time’ is how all the best children’s stories begin and ‘prostitute’ is a word for adults. How can I start a book with this apparent contradiction? But since, at every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss, let’s keep that beginning.

Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria.

Paolo Coelho.Eleven Minutes

IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities

Mike Bowman whistled cheerfully as he drove the Land Rover through the Cabo Blanco Biological Reserve, on the west coast of Costa Rica. It was a beautiful morning in July, and the road before him was spectacular: hugging the edge of a cliff, overlooking the jungle and the blue Pacific.

-Michael Crichton. Jurassic Park 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

-Jane Austen. Pride & Prejudice 

THE BOY’S NAME WAS SANTIAGO. DUSK WAS FALLING AS the boy arrived with his herd at an abandoned church. The roof had fallen in long ago, and an enormous sycamore had grown on the spot where the sacristy had once stood.

-Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist

Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.

The judge, a formidably heavy-featured man, rolled up the sleeves of his black robe as if to physically chastise the two young men standing before the bench. His face was cold with majestic contempt. But there was something false in all this that Amerigo Bonasera sensed but did not yet understand.

Mario Puzo, The Godfather

Robert Langdon awoke slowly. A telephone was ringing in the darkness—a tinny, unfamiliar ring. He fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on. Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four-poster bed. Where the hell am I?

Dan Brown. The Da Vinci Code

In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the river bank by the boats, in the shade of the sallow wood and the fig tree, Siddhartha, the handsome Brahmin’s son, grew up with his friend Govinda. The sun browned his slender shoulders on the river bank,while bathing at the holy ablutions, at the holy sacrifices.Shadows passed across his eyes in the mango grove during play,while his mother sang, during his father’s teachings, when with the learned men.

-Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha 

HOWARD ROARK laughed. He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone–flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with sunrays.

-Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead

WHETHER I SHALL TURN OUT TO BE THE HERO OF MY own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o‘clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

Charles Dickens. David Copperfield 

High atop the steps of the Pyramid of Giza a young woman laughed and called down to him. “Robert, hurry up! I knew I should have married a younger man!” Her smile was magic. He struggled to keep up, but his legs felt like stone. “Wait,” he begged. “Please…” As he climbed, his vision began to blur. There was a thundering in his ears. I must reach her! But when he looked up again, the woman had disappeared. In her place stood an old man with rotting teeth. The man stared down, curling his lips into a lonely grimace. Then he let out a scream of anguish that resounded across the desert.

Dan Brown. Angels & Demons 

It was love at first sight.  The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. The doctors were puzzled by the fact that it wasn’t quite jaundice. If it became jaundice they could treat it. If it didn’t become jaundice and went away they could discharge him. But this just being short of jaundice all the time confused them.

Joseph Heller. Catch-22

Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearth-rug and picked up the stick which our visitor had left behind him the night before. It was a fine, thick piece of wood, bulbous-headed, of the sort which is known as a “Penang lawyer.” Just under the head was a broad silver band nearly an inch across. “To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H.,” was engraved upon it, with the date “1884.” It was just such a stick as the old-fashioned family practitioner used to carry–dignified, solid, and reassuring. “Well, Watson, what do you make of it?” Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of my occupation. “How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in the back of your head.” “I have, at least, a well-polished, silver-plated coffee-pot in front of me,” said he.

-Doyle, Arthur Conan Sir. The Hound of Baskervilles

My suffering left me sad and gloomy.Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religion slowly wrought me back to life. I have kept up with what some people would consider my strange religious practices. After one year of high school, I attended the University of Toronto and took a double-major Bachelor’s degree. My majors were religious studies and zoology. My fourth-year thesis for religious studies concerned certain aspects of the cosmogony theory of Isaac Luria, the great sixteenth-century Kabbalist from Safed. My zoology thesis was a functional analysis of the thyroid gland of the three-toed sloth. I chose the sloth because its demeanour-calm, quiet and introspective–did something to soothe my
shattered self.

Yann Martel.Life of Pie

It is a curious thing that at my age–fifty-five last birthday–I should find myself taking up a pen to try to write a history. I wonder what sort of a history it will be when I have finished it, if ever I come to the end of the trip!

H Rider Haggard.King Solomon’s Mines

When farmer Oak smiled,the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears,his eyes were reduced to chinks,and diverging wrinkles appeared round them,extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun

Thomas Hardy.Far From the Madding Crowd

 

 

(image not owned by me.Taken from-

http://www.oilpaintingfactory.com/pic/Oil%20Painting%20Masterpieces%20on%20Canvas/Grimshaw%20John%20Atkinson_England_1836-1893/4-November-Moonlight-city-scenes-landscape-John-Atkinson-Grimshaw.jpg)