Archive for the ‘books’ Category

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My week of Reading Deprivation (part 2)

November 4, 2017

So, none of the three Internet-enabled time-sinks for a week. But books? I’m always reading one, would I miss that terribly? And the newspaper? Not really a big challenge, since I’ve all but stopped readin it. I just skim through once in a while.

The week, as it happened couldn’t have been busier – S travelling, my folks visiting, finding myself busy with some meaty work on hand, and resuming working out after over five months, with a trainer, three times a week.

So how did the week go? It’s been two full days since the week got over, and here are some things that I realised –

  • I didn’t miss picking up my phone every once in a while to check Instagram or whatsapp mindlessly. It was easier than I imagined too.
  • I did miss watching the current show I’m hooked onto (This is Us) a wee bit.
  • I listened to a TON of music, like this is 1999, 2003, or 2006 or one of those phases in my life. And I was ODing on a most unlikely band – Imagine Dragons. I’m not even sure I want to admit to this in public, but there you go.
  • On average, I sleep 6.5-7 hours each night. All through this week, I managed a nice 7-7.5 hours each night. There was at least one night where a slept a beautiful 8 hours. This is partly because of not checking my phone before bedtime (which I have reduced lately) and more because I wasn’t reading in bed either.
  • My phone battery life has never been better.
  • All week, I didn’t read through some random parenting article (thanks to the FB groups that I check once in a while more often than I care to admit) and feel like a terrible mother.
  • Not having ads chase me everywhere – enticing me to look at beautiful and ridiculously expensive clothes that I won’t buy, but will still go click through and look at on the site and then close window feeling smug about not wanting to buy it – was a great feeling as well.
  • I didn’t miss reading my books too much, but was a bit bummed that I couldn’t rightaway start reading from the stash that arrived with my parents right this week. So I was happiest to dive right in once the week ended.
  • It’s been two days and I’ve checked Instagram/FB only a couple of times, Twitter not at all, and probably won’t for a long time. I am blissfully reluctant to go back to all that social media noise.
  • I got a satisfyingly good amount of work done
  • Chores that I thought I might get around to finally – only one or two got done.
  • Finally, and this has been the most revealing insight for me from the week – it made me step back and take a look at how much time I spend reading online, starting with some stray thought in my head, which I then go on to Google. And bam, I’m lost in the great Internet black hole. It’s not so much the amount of time I spend on chasing an idea or a thought, but how often I would do it. It adds up. I would be in the middle of something, and then would get distracted by a thought, Google it and then that’s a good 10 or 15 or 20 minutes wasted. Rinse, repeat. Examples -I’d look at my withering Jade plant and want to look up tips to revive it. Down rabbit hole for 10 minutes. (And this actually happened inadvertently during my reading deprivation week !) Or, like today, my hip joint is feeling a bit sore, so I google hip flexor stretches. Next thing I know, I nearly clicked through to an article on how to do splits. Such rubbish behaviour, arghh.

The wonderful realisation that dawned on me when I was telling a friend about this week, was that I had actually single-tasked for most part of the week, and it was wonderful. My brain wasn’t overloaded with a bazillion thoughts all the time and it was good to slow down and be quiet. I hope that I will carry these lessons forward and keep myself from falling back into my old habits. Aside from the obvious effects, I’m sure my  brain (and the rest of my body) will thank me for ceasing the endless chatter.

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My week of Reading Deprivation (part 1)

November 4, 2017

Reading deprivation is an exercise in Week 4 of The Artist’s Way. (More about the book here. I’ll just say that for a book that was written 25 years ago, it is wonderfully relevant and a must-read).


It is as drastic as it seems – no reading, for a week, and in this age, it automatically means no social media either. The idea is that once you control how much information you consume, the outflow (what you create) will see a drastic improvement as well. ‘It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distraction we are actually filling the well,’ writes Julia Cameron in the book. And how true that is, I was to find out.

I’ve become a big fan of the Morning Pages that she recommends in her book, and I love how it helps me feel more sorted in my head for the day ahead. I believe this routine of writing my Morning pages, despite the 30 minutes time taken each morning, has had a great impact on me as a individual, a parent and as an artist.

Barely a third of the book down, and I love it already. Naturally, I was excited to try this Reading deprivation exercise. No reading and no media meant three things out for me instantly for a week – general internet reading, Instagram and watching stuff online.

In the past I have tried to be more conscious about my reading habits online in particular, and how I end up clicking on one mildly interesting link after another and soon I’m far down the rabbit hole and 20 minutes have flown past. This has been only awareness, and I haven’t done much to curb it until now.

And there’s Instagram. That beautiful time-sink filled with beautiful art (my timeline!) and a bunch food and other photographs. I love the medium for how much amazing art there is out there, and I hate it for how often I’m mindlessly scrolling through posts, Liking posts and then mildly feeling inadequate about my own skills or my parenting, or my life, or rolling my eyes at someone’s pretentiousness. I’ve deleted the app for a week at a time twice in the past and this has greatly made a difference to how frequently I used the app. I scroll past a few posts and close the app now, I don’t try and catch up with all. And yet, I would find myself frequently and idly picking up the phone and scrolling through.

Coming to the third, my guilty pleasure. Netflix and Amazon Prime. I’ve lately gotten into the habit of binge-watching stuff, especially when I’m doing something that doesn’t involve too much thought. Like exercising, or even painting, at times. Not good.

So, the reading deprivation was a good thing for me to try, clearly. And since this post is getting too long already, I’ll talk about how the week went in part 2.

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T: Tools of Titans

April 24, 2017

That’s the name of the book by Tim Ferriss that I’m currently reading and quite enjoying. It’s essentially a compilation of the highlights of interviews of people from various walks of life (in his words, world-class performers) from his podcast, which I’ve been listening to for a couple of months now. On his podcast, Ferriss has this very casual interview, which is more like a chat with all these cool, interesting people from a really diverse range of fields, on topics like their morning routines, fitness, productivity, books, etc. So the book is distilled version of the podcast and it features people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scott Adams, Cheryl Strayed, Maria Popova, Brene Brown and then a whole bunch of other people who I’ve never even heard of, but some of whom pique my interest enough to go look them up next.

Even though his podcast is supposedly a ‘Business podcast’ and the book delves into the tools and tactics of ‘billionaires’, I’m glad I decided to give it a shot and try both when a friend recommended it. Especially, the book. Maybe it’s the phase of life or frame of mind that I am in these days, but a lot of quotes/ advice in the book seem especially relevant to me. In fact, I don’t know of a book where I’ve gone about highlighting so many parts (on my Kindle) as I have, in this book.

So, here are some favourite bits from the book –

Seth Godin – “I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition.’

Chuck Close, an American artist – “Inspiration is for amateurs— the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will— through work— bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.”

When Kurt Vonnegut wrote ‘Write to please just one person,’ what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself…. The second you start doing it for an audience, you’ve lost the long game because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it….”

And this line from the book, which is actually a Zen mantra –  ‘Sit, sit. Walk, walk. Don’t wobble.‘ is something I probably need tattooed on my hand or some place where I can ALWAYS see it.

Apart from so much learning, the book has also given me a bunch of other stuff to look up, the people who feature in the book, a bunch of books to read, music to check out. And to think, I’m not even done with 50% of the book!

Okay, I’m done gushing.

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E: Em and The Big Hoom (a review)

April 6, 2017

This is a book I finished reading last week. I’ve always been reluctant to write reviews of books or movies for some reason, maybe the fear that I may not do enough justice to the book. But here’s an attempt. 

The book is about how the family of Imelda (Em) deals with her manic depression and is both heartwarming and funny. The story of her courtship and marriage to the Big Hoom reels you in, as do the details of their life in that tiny apartment in Bombay. 

There are some hilarious bits of dialogue, centred around the seemingly eccentric but flamboyant Em which gives some wonderful insight into her character and makes her all the more endearing. And into the culture of the Goan Catholic (?) families of the period. 

I even paused after some bits of dialogue to imagine a raspy voice saying the lines out loud. Sample this –

‘Ambivalence? I love it. I was ambivalent. I think I am ambivalent right now. I think I am an ambivalence, toon taan toon taan toon taan, with a blue light on my forehead.’

Or,

‘Gone to sleep or what? Three hundred now and without pills. Open mouth. Aaahn. Pull this lid, pull that lid, cough for me, ptack-ptack on the chest and write write write. Finished. Three hundred rupees in the pocket and “Send her to the clinic next time” he got the bupka to tell me.’ 

Made me laugh my head off. And there’s a beautiful line from the book that has stayed with me – In this city, every deserted street corner conceals a crowd. How true, of virtually every city in India. 

How her children, the son in particular, deal with her illness is dealt with quite beautifully and honestly. It made me wonder more than once if the book is based on Pinto’s life (it is). 

My only complaint is that the ending seemed to come too suddenly, and maybe it seems a bit disjointed in places. But I think this is a book I’ll revisit in bits, just for the humour and the beautiful writing. 

I’m loving the new brood of Indian authors I’m discovering. I also recently loved Manu Joseph’ ‘The Illicit happiness of other people’. I’d love to read more by Jerry Pinto, so I’ll probably pick another soon. Also, I recall seeing some kidlit by Pinto when I was at the Lightroom bookstore in Bangalore the last time, maybe I’ll check those out too. 

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Z: Zen Pencils

April 30, 2016

Yes, this post will be a short one where I link to my favourite Zen Pencils strip. This is another webcomic that I love and it’s by an Australian guy called Gavin Aung Than. He takes inspirational quotes or speeches and distills the essence into comic strips. What’s not to love?

Ooh he’s also released two books and posters based on the comic. In case you’re looking for gift ideas, these are great! Here: www.zenpencils.com

And here’s my favourite strip, based on a quote by Ira Glass. I can’t quite express how much I love this piece and the comic 🙂

(A strong sense of deja vu happened and I went back and checked the archives and realised this is my second post on the same thing! Told you I love it :D)

 

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N: Nursery Rhymes

April 16, 2016

We’ve all grown up learning a fair share of these. But only recently have I started paying close attention to the them. For obvious reasons. Couple of years back, S was telling me about a discussion with his colleagues where they mentioned that a lot of nursery rhymes we grew up with seem either quite tragic, or unnecessarily morbid. Think about it:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall – and then – had a great fall?

Jack & Jill went up the hill – and at the end – Jack fell down, broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after?

More recently, I picked up a book with a ton of rhymes for A, mostly because it has some gorgeous illustrations. And I’ve been stunned at some of the rhymes that were so far unknown to me.

Sample this one – There was an old woman who lived in a shoe – and look at the accompanying illustration of the horrid old lady about to spank the kid with a SHOE!! When I read this out to A, I change the last line to ‘She kissed them all and sent them to bed’. 

  
Or these two in this page. What is the point of the first one, honestly? And what about poor Little Polly Flinders?! She gets whipped for wanting to warm her toes? 

  
Thanks, but no thanks. Once A gets bored of the pics, I think we’ll stick more pleasant stuf. 

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Born to run

November 15, 2015

 

 This book by Christopher McDougall traces the story of Mexico’s ‘running people’ – the Tarahumara tribe and is an incredibly interesting read. The first time I read, I breezed through it. The second time around, I’m taking it slower, trying savour it. I never usually stop to take notes while reading a book, but this seems like as good a time as any to start. Perhaps I’ll keep updating this post with my favourite parts from the book. 

Caballo Blanco – “Don’t fight the trail. Take what it gives you. “

“Lesson two. Think Easy, light, smoothe and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, work on making it smoooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast. “

A Tarahumara saying – When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.’