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A Christmas Carol

I believe that the books that we have read as a child do have much to offer if looked at again with adult eyes. There are things, for example, friendship, brotherhood, love, treachery, heartbreak, misery, war, and most of all death, that a child has yet to encounter. As far as adults go, we have had a fair share of these either it being a personal experience or from other people’s lives.

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A Christmas Carol was first published in the year 1843 and today we are in 2017. This very fact, that two people, the writer and the reader, can come in contact, have a conversation, and momentarily, share a period of time long gone, is a testament to the power that books hold.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Ebenezer “Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” on whom “External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.”, and on top of all that, he hates Christmas.

This is the first time I am reading Charles Dickens as far as I recall (I may have read his work as I child), and his writing style took me by a pleasant surprise.
When he mentions the death of Scrooge’s partner and friend, Jacob Marley, this is how he describes his condition.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

The flow, the usage of words, the craft, I loved every bit of them and I am sharing direct quotes from early on in the book so that you may get a taste of it.
Your mileage may vary.

Scrooge’s nephew comes to his house to invite him to Christmas dinner which you may have understood by now he refused.
He the turns away two men who came seeking donation for the poor, and gives his clerk, Bob, a hard time when he asks for a day’s leave on Christmas.  Later that night, Marley’s ghost pays him a visit and when he comes to terms that something haunted is coming his way, he says, “It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge. “I won’t believe it.”.

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I will not say more as it will be a major disservice to you, the reader.
Though I will add that Marley’s ghost isn’t the only ghost who pays him a visit.

This is a story of great inspiration and heart about how we as person change over the course of our lives, be it for the good or the bad, and how life gives us a chance to reflect on our life and mend it before it gets too late.
I highly recommend this book to any lover of Classics.

Also, I take great pleasure in informing you that this novella is the first book that I have started (7/2) and finished (15/2) in 2017. As I have stated in my article, The Stranger, 2016 was not a productive year for me when it came to both reading and writing.
I am currently reading two non-fiction books, The Prince and Meditations.
Both of them require a good amount of brain juice and are not suited for just picking up and reading. For this reason, I started A Christmas Carol. I read it on my tablet through Google Play for free. This is a public domain book and you can easily find it for free, like on Gutenberg.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the City. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!”

Aerogrammes: and Other Stories

Most of us must have read short stories while growing up but as we grow up, we move towards the bigger, heavier, and lengthier stories. Some of us may consider to read them once in while, some may be indifferent towards them, and some would have left them altogether.

For me reading isn’t just another pass time, it is one of my passions, it is something that has helped me become a better person. I often share the following quote with people though in my own words.

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of past centuries.”― René Descartes

For these very reasons and more, I am not committed to any particular format and genre when it comes to books. For a fact, I picked up this book at an absolute bargain price of Rs. 20 and it turned out to be good read.

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Aerogrammes is a collection of short stories that feels like a well woven tapestry. The stories mostly have a contemporary feel and tone but the human emotion that each of them present is beautiful and unique,  and though I connect to some more than the others,  I liked them all.

When I finished this book I shared the following post on my Facebook page. It contains a summarized version of one my favourite story.  I highly enjoyed reading this book.

Had picked up this book for twenty Rupees at the Lucknow book fair the last time I went to it.

Written by Tania James, it’s a collection of short stories. Most of them are good.

The last one that I am currently halfway through is named, Girl Marries Ghost which is exactly what you understand by its name.

It’s been a long time that I have finished a book. I feel good, Alhamdulillah.

Uncle Rajesh Sinha

U hv written,you r half way of last story……and further u hv written that you hv finished…pl finish and tell the conclusion.I am waiting

Me- The story is that Gina is the widow whose husband died last year while riding bike, is now willing to marry a Ghost. There are ghost matrimonial, and the ghost Gina selects was a very rich and educated man, has a great tower like estate in the city who will be inherited by Gina when she marries the ghost.

Gina’s family doesn’t approve of this union, she marries anyway. She likes the marriage but is disturbed by the fact that the ghost doesn’t give her time and company in the marriage.

She finds out that he goes out now and then to visit the house his ex wife lived in. She brings her back to the house, drops her back at his house. Then says that she can’t continue the relationship.

The end is that she drives the car for a while then stops, thinking whether she will divorce him (if she gives him divorce he will have to leave this world) or whether she will give him another chance, story ends there.

This is a very summarized version sir.

Uncle- Ooooo,new type of story.Big thanks for sharing.

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The Stranger

“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.”

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This is an apt quote to give you a glimpse of the kind of book this is.
The Stranger is the story of a man, Meursalt (which will be called M in the following article) . To be honest though I have recently (by which I mean 24,  August 2016, Yeah,  2016 was not much of a productive year when it came to reading and writing) finished this book I had to google the name of the main character, not that the character or the story was not interesting, it is a fascinating book and a short read. It’s just that the other characters in M’s life are so interesting, and his life’s philosophy is so absorbing.

I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God.

The story develops slowly,  if you venture to read it I recommend that you keep patience and give it some time to open itself to you.

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.

Story begins with M visiting the countryside where his mother who has recently passed away who lived in what you may consider an old age home. The way he carries himself in the situation is very unconventional and bewildering to say the least.

The following stays true for most of what you will read in this book, his moral compass seems to be skewed but that’s just the way he thinks.

“I didn’t like having to explain to them, so I just shut up, smoked a cigarette, and looked at the sea.”

From the wiki on Absurdism –
“The absurdist philosopher Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence while also defiantly continuing to explore and search for meaning. Absurdism shares some concepts, and a common theoretical template, with existentialism and nihilism.

Then there are the other characters of whom I will not give any further information. It’s a great book, a short read full of a particular kind of philosophy expressed in a fascinating way, something that I didn’t agree to on many levels but still I would recommend it to anyone who likes to read quality material and thoughts that even are, Absurd.

Algyojha

Quite a few years back, while strolling in Landmark, a book store which was one of the few good places to spend your time when visiting that particular shopping mall, I picked up a collection of Munshi Premchand stories and novels. Was it in Hindi or English, I don’t remember, neither do I remember as to why I didn’t buy it. What one does remember is, Munshi Premchand.Munshi Premchand

If you have had the opportunity and blessing of getting educated in India, chances are that you have met this man. Premchand was a prolific Hindi writer, holding the title: “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”), and has dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories to his name.

There are many things that one can not see clearly and need to be reminded about. Our indifferent attitude towards Hindi as a language does not fall under that. If only one notices in his or her life, how we flow through the days and weeks, and count how much proper interaction we are having with Hindi the indifference should be pretty clear.

I picked up this short story ‘अलग्योझा’ for the very simple reason that I wanted to read something in Hindi and having liked his writing style and stories as a kid, Premchand seemed the right choice.

The story premise is basic and one that we Indians have seen, heard, and read countless times. The classic tale of a child losing his mother at a young age and coming to terms with having a stepmother.
Don’t let the words basic premise fool you. This is Mr. Premchand’s work that you will be reading. There is great drama in it. Brotherly love, compassion, envy, care and nurture, sadness, moments of sunshine and humour.

As usual the work touches on many of the social issues that we have ourselves come to know and see. For one the fractioning of house from a joint family to separate nuclear units and how the relations that were once cherished get estranged. The title itself references to that.

I would leave the rest for you to discover and enjoy.
I read this story using this app on my tablet. You can also read it directly on this website.

Duma Key

People who know me know that I am not a big fan of the paranormal/horror genre, so the question arises as to why would I buy a Stephen King book. Well, to be honest, I bought it because I found it dirt cheap. We had a book fair in the city last year and as I was checking the books in the cheap books section (mostly used books) I came across this, checked it up on Goodreads, taken.

Now I did know about the fame of Stephen King as a master story teller, I have watched The Shawshank Redemption which is numero uno in the Top 250 IMDb list, and then I have also watched The Green Mile. I also had prior knowledge of the scaring prowess of Mr. King, having heard it from brother Abdur Raheem Green in his How I Came to Islam lecture that he wasn’t able to sleep after finishing Carrie. And that’s how I picked it up and boy I made the right decision. I absolutely loved reading this book.Duma Key

This is a paranormal thriller with a dash of mild horror so I will not divulge much as I dare not give any leads that will ruin someone’s book reading experience.

The lead character, Edgar Freemantle, is a major big shot in the building and contracting business, living a quality life with his wife and two daughters that don’t live with him. Then he met with an accident at his construction site, that accident destroys him and his smooth sailing life, and things go south drastically. To escape all this he takes the advice of going away to a different place to rebuild his broken self and his broken life.

We all came here to dig for treasure.

Presented just before the opening section, you understand them deeply in the context of the book, but the poem really struck me from an Islamic perspective. Magnificent.

Of all the places a man with his kind of financial worth can go to lay down, he decides on going to Duma Key, or is it a illusion of making a decision. As Wireman would say, “We fool ourselves so much we could do it for a living”. You will hear about Wireman quite early even before you meet him. Wireman is an interesting character, one in whose name you can easily slip a ‘s’ in the place of ‘r’ and voila! Wiseman.

There is something strange on Duma Key and it effects the lives of the few people who inhabit it and the lives of the people who are part of the lives of the people who inhabit Duma Key.
The characters in this book are skilfully brushed out and one is able to easily build a connection with them.

Some people whom I told about the book were not able to understand what the ‘Key’ means in ‘Duma Key’. So for them, lmgtfy.
“Cay, also spelled key, a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of a coral reef”.Duma Key

I will leave the rest for you to discover, to unfold the mystery of Duma Key, to share some rare happy moments, to blank out after getting tired of the pain, to pick up a brush and start to paint, to see the distant horizon,  to see the Sun setting, to see the Sun rising, to see a man’s failure, to see a father’s triumph, to see a girl’s bravery, for all that and more, I give you Duma Key.

“If I kept saying it; if I kept reaching out. My accident really taught me just one thing: the only way to go on is to go on. To say ‘I can do this’ even when you know you can’t.”

“Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won’t carry a quitter. ”

“I realized the shells were talking in a voice I recognized. I should have; it was my own. Had I always known that? I suppose I had. On some level, unless we’re mad, I think most of us know the various voices of our own imaginations.

And of our memories, of course. They have voices, too. Ask anyone who has ever lost a limb or a child or a long-cherished dream. Ask anyone who blames himself for a bad decision, usually made in a raw instant (an instant that is most commonly red). Our memories have voices, too. Often sad ones that clamor like raised arms in the dark.”

“Life is like Friday on a soap opera. It gives you the illusion that everything is going to wrap up, and then the same old shit starts up on Monday.”

“A person’s memory is everything, really. Memory is identity. It’s you.”

“In the end we always wear out our worries. That’s what Wireman says.”

“Clear communication between selves – the surface self and the deep self – is the enemy of self-doubt. It slays confusion.”

There is plenty more where this came from, Duma Key is indeed a masterpiece and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who found the above interesting.
Will I pick up some other paperback by Stephen King? Insha’Allah, yes, not any time soon though. Peace Out.

A House for Mr Biswas

If you ever come across a scene, where the members of a family are falling head over heels for someone, running around that person, trying to please and appease him. Know that the creature in front of you is the Son-In-Law of that family. This is an Indian cultural thing that is quite common here in India, though this status and prestige of the Son-In-Law depreciates over the years, the rate of depreciation depends on how he treats his wife and her family members.
The sad part is that Mr Biswas didn’t even receive the above mentioned honour when he married into the Tulsi Family.

Having purchased the paperback in August’2013, I picked it up last week. I don’t remember from where did I came to know about this book, but I am thankful that I did, for it is an excellent read, beautifully written by  V. S. Naipaul.

‘A work of great comic power qualified with firm and unsentimental compassion’                                                                                                                                 -Anthony Burgess

I couldn’t agree more.

The book is about the life of Mohun Biswas and his yearning to own a house.

How terrible it would have been. . . to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one’s portion of the earth; to have lived and died as one has been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated.

The story is setup in Trinidad and major characters are Indo-Trinidadians. It begins with telling you that Mr Biswas is living in his own house, he is forty six years old, and he is to die soon. What follow is a journey that takes you back in time, to his birth, in the ‘wrong way’, in a village that is uniquely Indian. Most of the Indians living in urban India do have some connection with the villages and small districts because of family and friends though that connection is getting weaker by the day, and if not, most Indians have watched enough Bollywood to feel as if the the opening chapter is going on in some village in India itself.

While reading most books there are moment you pass a smile or have a chuckle, this one is different. I couldn’t help myself laughing out loud through out the book and the last time that I remember having such an experience was when I read Catch- 22.

As the story develops, you start feeling for Mr Biswas, his struggles, his troubles, his fears, his triumphs, all feel real, and you connect with him and other characters in the book. It all feels real.

‘When you sick you forget what it is to be well. And when you well you don’t really know what it is to be sick. Is the same with not having place to go back to every afternoon.’

Roti Kapda aur Makaan (Food, Clothing, and Shelter). These are the key struggles of many Indian and for the fact, Humans around the world. People who have the above should be grateful to God, be more humble and charitable.

Above I mentioned the Tulsi Family. Mr Biswas marries one of the daughters of this family, though the circumstances in which the marriage takes place, are quite hilarious for the reader, but surreal for Mr Biswas.

Mr. Biswas has no money or position. He was expected to become a Tulsi.

 From the ultimate low, Mr Biswas pulls himself up, and makes something out of his life.

He was going out into the world, to test it for his power to frighten. The past was counterfeit, a series of cheating accidents. Real life, and its especial sweetness, awaited; he was still beginning.

I wouldn’t divulge anything more from the story because I want to you read it for yourself. I had a great time reading this book, laughed a great deal, grew solemn in certain sections of the book, especially when the book was near its end.

Some of the quotes from the book:

He has begun to wait, not only for love, but for the world to yield its sweetness and romance. He deferred all his pleasure in life until that day.

There is, in some weak people who feel their own weakness and resent it, a certain mechanism which, operating suddenly and without conscious direction, releases them from final humiliation.

For Shama and her sisters and women like them, ambition, if the word could be used, was a series of negatives: not to be unmarried, not to be childless, not to be an undutiful daughter, sister, wife, mother, widow.

Father and son, each saw the other as weak and vulnerable, and each felt a responsibility for the other, a responsibility which, in times of particular pain, was disguised by exaggerated authority on the one side, exaggerated respect on the other.

PS: I did find out from where I learned about this book, TIME’S ALL-TIME 100 Novels.