The Autobiography of a Stock – A Book Review

One of the benefits of being an Indian middle class child is that you learn much earlier in life that you need to save money, irrespective of whether you like it or not. Most children from these households might have grown up listening to how their parents had to shed blood to ensure financial security for the family. While one must be grateful for all that they have been provided with, one cannot deny the fact that the circumstances of an Indian household doesn’t really approve of or prepare you to take any sort of risks to improve your finances. There weren’t even many takers for entrepreneurship as compared to a paid job, until recently. Continue reading “The Autobiography of a Stock – A Book Review”

Shashank Kasliwal’s ‘Freedom From the I’ – A Jaico Book

 

When I was a child, my grandmother always told me about the guy who walked back from death with the help of a thread and woke up during his funeral procession. All these years, I have never been able to give a face to this guy from my grandmother’s story. But as I kept reading through the pages of ‘Freedom from the I’, I could finally paint a face to that character. This might sound like an exaggeration but the author of the book, Shashank Kasliwal, surely seem to have walked through hell and managed to have returned to life. Interestingly, this is a hell he designed on his own. However, as he walks you down the lanes of his own hell, most of you will realize that the sceneries are not too different from your own personal hell.
Continue reading “Shashank Kasliwal’s ‘Freedom From the I’ – A Jaico Book”

Yoddha from Jaico Publishing House

Book Review – Rajat Pillai’s Yoddha

The new arrivals section in most bookstores these days are overflowing with mythological fiction, making me want to run at the mention of fiction. The social media has barely recovered from the hailstorm of Padmavati (or should I say Padmavat?). So, I wasn’t sure if it was a safe idea to start reading a historical fiction at this juncture.

I looked at the title of the book again. It said Yoddha. I couldn’t help being reminded of Jodha (Akbar), who was a forerunner for the likes of Padmavati in terms of controversies. The subtitle of the book read, “The Dynasty of Samudragupta”.  The author Rajat Pillai must have thought, “Why should the Khiljis, Akbars, and Aurangzebs have all the fun? Let us also wake the Guptas up, from their forgotten graves”.

A friend who saw me reading the book, asked if the book speaks of the wars that Samudragupta had won during his time. Given that the title of the book refers to ‘a warrior’, one would expect the same. However, you get to see more of Samudra, the retiring king and doting father and less of Samudra, the warrior. The story starts after the point in history when the Ashwamedha horse sent by Samudragupta returned unconquered, invariably crowning him the King of Kings. The book begins with Samudra and ends with him but there are many a Yoddhas in the pages in between. While Samudra remains the glorious historical backdrop for the story to unfold, the book is more about the ascending of Chandragupta II. The book does deal with battles but most of them doesn’t involve a sword or an armor.

The challenge with historical fictions is that the readers always know who lives and who dies. The success of such books lies in the narration that keeps the reader hooked to the book even after knowing what is to befall their favourite characters. That way Rajat Pillai chose a rather unconventional plot to keep his audience’s attention. Who would have thought that the future king of the Gupta Dynasty had to be treated for mental illness? On the hindsight, I am wondering if the author tried to create awareness about mental illness through his book. The book has all the usual elements of a historical fiction – war, love, sibling rivalry, treachery and more. An important chapter of the book almost reminded me of a scene from the blockbuster movie ‘Bahubali’, but the later chapters made me realize that there was more to it than what I had assumed.

The chapters dedicated to the amorous adventures of Chandragupta are akin to a Bollywood dance number in the middle of a fast-moving thriller movie. It disrupts the flow of the story, but being an Indian audience, you are used to such fully-packed entertainers. So that way, the book caters to classes and surely is an entertainer. An interesting part of the book was the inclusion of the intriguing Kumari Devi (Kanya Devi) or the Living Goddess in the plot and touching upon the significant role these women play in a kingdom. When you have almost forgotten about Samrat Samudra after the first few chapters, there come the dark secrets from his past weaving some exciting subplots before the grand finale. From Vyom to Madhavasena, the book is quite engaging. However, I do personally think the editorial team could have done a better job.

I come from the creed of people who still can’t get over the Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan (1950) after all these years. 2400 pages and five volumes, one can imagine the amount of research and historical data that would have gone into the making of a book of such magnitude.

With Ponniyin Selvan as the benchmark, it becomes difficult to appreciate any new age historical fiction. However, I am also aware that it is unfair to the author to put his book against the mighty Ponniyin Selvan. So, I must warn you that if you belong in the Ponniyin Selvan fan club, then this book might leave you unquenched.  But, if you are a light reader and are tired of the mythological fictions or if you are looking for a page turner, then this is an excellent choice of read for you. I must also credit the author for choosing the Golden era in the Indian history that usually gets overshadowed thanks to all the political controversies. Even if the book doesn’t bring out all the true history of this period, I hope the book will rekindle the interest of the reading population to unearth more knowledge about these rulers and their administration.

Jasmin-Waldmann-Change_Me

Jasmin Waldmann’s Change Me

One of the protagonists says that the idea of life coach is relatively new in India. It’s a point to ponder upon. A lot of formulations have been known in our country from the longest period of time man can remember through culture and literature.
However, through years of self deprecation and looking for joy in west-imitation, we have let those formulations rust away in the dingy corner of our forgetful mind. Should we seek support from outside in times of need? Can an external force drive us to help ourselves to become a better version of what we are? Or is the external force just a misnomer for someone who reminds us of our internal energy which in turn drives us to change ourselves? In the Mahabharata, Krishna himself didn’t fight. However, he did become that external force for Arjuna to remind him of his duty, responsibility, skills, and power. Krishna who himself is known as the Yogiraj (King of Yogins) taught Arjun lessons in JnanYoga, KarmaYoga, and BhaktiYoga. Arjun channelized his own energy and went on to win the war of both the external and the internal world. Bhagwad Gita was perhaps the first book written for the ‘Self-Help’ shelf.

As with the Bhagwad Gita, we tend to forget our own worth and dreams in the rat race of the world. Change Me enters a chaotic world with an objective to impart a sense of purpose to all the rats. Calmly but assertively, this book tells the rats to stop, breathe, enter their mind palaces, and observe their ratness. It maybe that they are not rats after all and are running a race of someone else. Natalie Kofman is arguably the Krishna of the book and Amit Malhotra is her Arjun.

The author Jasmin Waldmann, life coach and fitness expert, speaks to the readers through the character of Natalie. Amit Malhotra represents the set of readers who are willing to change themselves. Published by Jaico Publishing House, Change Me is life coaching made palatable through storytelling.
I have read quite a few books on self help. Most of the times, I have put them down after reading a few pages or even half of the book because of the monotonous preaching of the author in the books. So, the bait of storytelling in Change Me worked for me. The author lays out the focus areas of her chapters through the titles and goes phase by phase into Amit’s transformation. The journey from Recognize to Resurrect is a story many of us would relate to. On the way, Jasmin has packed up quite a few practical lessons on physical exercise, breathing techniques, and meditation which makes sure that the book is more than just a marketing material for the author and her coaching programs.
However, you must bear in mind that this is a self-help book and hence, you must not look for an epic story in these pages. The characters and their conversations are sometimes clichéd, the plot is often predictable, and the text is at times ordinary. It doesn’t help that there are a few typos as well. However, what the book loses in such shortcomings, it gains in the pace of storytelling and the practicality of lessons imparted through conversations between its protagonists.

My favourite part of the book would be the dialogue between Amit and other characters when Natalie takes Amit to his childhood to heal some wounds from the past. I would have liked a few more practical points or To Do things in the book but I believe that there is only one test for any self-help book. Did the book inspire enough to invest more time into my self-improvement? The answer for me is Yes. This is a good, earnestly written book and ends at a sweet length for you to read less and do more.

Sunil Mishra’s Transit Lounge

A lot of us who are bitten by the bug of wanderlust, often envy those who are privileged to travel across the skies, as a part of their job. So, it goes without saying how green I was with envy when I read the blurb of Sunil Mishra’s ‘Transit Lounge’. It reads, – “An Indian’s account of travelling to thirty countries across six continents”. The envy turns into a smile as he explains how International travel from India has drastically changed in the last 20 years.

Sunil begins the book with a disclaimer that the book is a “non-expert’s account of capturing the world-view from personal experiences of travelling” and that his observations could be “partial, in pockets and non-exhaustive”. I think it was very thoughtful of him to mention that because as Roman Payne says “Depending on the city and on the traveller, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”

Sunil is an IT professional and has been travelling on business to various parts of the world. While some of his travels have been short stays, there are places he had revisited, some even multiple times over many years. So, while some accounts have limited information owing to the short stay, there are others that let you peek into these cities through various times and understand how they have changed. When you are a traveller, few of the first things that help make an impression of the place and its people are the airports, the taxis, the taxi drivers, the roads, the rails, the traffic on these and finally, the hospitality at the place of your stay. Sunil invariably talks about most of these in all his travel accounts giving you a taste of these places.

It is interesting to learn how some countries have evolved rather too quickly, while some have conveniently remained stagnant in their glorious past and some have shattered beyond recognition thanks to political turmoil and extremism. Sunil also talks about the various stereotyping that exists, how the dominant media paints an incorrect picture of the other parts of the world and how travel has made him see them all in a different light. You will also find the author constantly comparing the place that he is visiting with the state-of-affairs back at home, in India. He also records the appalling disparity in the standards of living among various countries.

The book is a mixed bag of travel tales. While few stories will introduce you to the culture or historical significance of the place, some of his stories will surely help you prepare for international travels especially to those countries with stringent and difficult immigration processes. There are stories that warn you of the fraudulent elements and there are stories that reassure you that the world is a better place than you thought. You might even get to relive the anxiety of your first travel and all those times when things went wrong with your travel plan and also those times when you got lucky.

The language of the book is free-flowing. It is an interesting and light-hearted read. While I empathize with the author’s trouble in getting a publisher, I feel the book could have used another round of editing. For a travelogue, the book is lacking in photographs, but then you must remember that some writers give you better stories than any picture will ever give you. That is true for this book as well. Also add to it, the fact that some of these stories are from before the mobile camera/DSLR era. In the words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” The learnings that Sunil talks about, at the end of his book proves how true those words are. After finishing the book, I am left with just one question – When is Sunil planning to cover the seventh continent?

 

Richard Rothman’s ‘Master Opportunity and Make It Big’ from Jaico

I have never been a great fan of self-help books, even if it is about business. I always believed that ‘’one man’s food is another man’s poison”. Our strengths and weaknesses are different and so are our secrets to success. So, when I picked Richard M Rothman’s ‘Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Master Opportunity and Make It Big’, I was skeptical if I will enjoy reading. However, the author did put some of my doubts to rest in the very first chapter where he narrates a very interesting anecdote from Essel Group’s Chairman Subash Chandra’s life. No matter how delicious your recipes are, you need to learn to plate them well to appeal to the target audience. How can Richard who is one of the world’s leading experts on Business Opportunities go wrong when it comes to his own readers?

I was expecting some more anecdotes in the chapters that followed, but every chapter surprised me and the reader in me was all excited. Each chapter painted ‘opportunity’ in distinct colors and I realized that the book is not trying to be a singular rule book to success but rather an encyclopedia, chronicling the paths to success. You are free to pick and choose whatever suits you. Have you always wanted to establish something that puts social welfare before profit? Do you want to work on areas you have absolutely no knowledge about? Are you worried that you have been trying for years with no real profit? Fear not. Richard’s book seems to have answers to these and a lot more of such questions. If there is one huge take away for me from the book, it is that money or the lack of it won’t stop you from achieving your business goals if you learn to play around with opportunities.

The Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book has two parts to it. The first part covers the success secrets of India’s Opportunity masters. From Subash Chandra to Sasha Mirchandani, there about 18 success stories that will inspire you to march towards yours dreams. These do not merely talk about the success stories, but also about how they perceived opportunity, persevered through tougher times and had the courage to venture into unknown territories. At the end of each chapter, he also summarizes the golden rules of success for each of these masters. In the second part of the book, Richard talks about forty-four opportunity sutras which includes Opportunity Accelerators, Opportunity Activators, Opportunity Evaluators, Opportunity Expediters.

The Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book has arrived at a time when the Indian market is abuzz with startups. The years 2016 and 2017 saw a lot of seemingly promising startups shut down. A study by inc42.com reveals that “50% of the founders, post-shutdown, have joined another company and are working on leading positions such as category head, CEOs, VPs and more. But only a small chunk has made a comeback as founders”. I believe this book would provide the impetus to turn that number around. The insights that this book provide makes it, a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur even those with a string of failed attempts. It does have its own cliched 3Cs, 3Ds, 5Ws etc. but if you can take them on your stride, this book is a good place to reach for some encouragement. Even if you are a non-reader, you can still try the book because the presentation of the book is simple and keeps you engaged. You can read in parts or may be just the golden rules.

I was a tad disheartened because all the Opportunity masters listed in the Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book were all males. I do really hope Richard would care to tell us about the masters from the other genders in the next edition of the Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book. Not that any of these secrets to success are gender-dependent, but there are gender-dependent challenges. Bringing out the stories of Opportunity master from the other genders will add an extra boost to the aspiring entrepreneurs from the other genders. Having said that, irrespective of your gender, this is one of those books, you can read and reread multiple times.

 

Disha’s Corporate Avatars by Jaico

What was the need for such a book?
The book Corporate Avatars was needed because yet another of the bright alumni of IIMs wanted to become a writer and dump all her management-experience borne gyan on us hapless chaps who have nothing better to do than to listen to the rant of a person who is frustrated with everything going around her in the corporate world. In short, this book was not needed.

 

Or wait a minute, am I just being a whining kid here? All the bosses had a fight at my workplace about a couple of days back. It was loud, it was public, and it was ugly. I am not speaking of the Supreme Court Chief Justice controversy here, though that sticks for an example as well. Somehow a fight between seniors or the elders is always uglier when compared to that between the relatively younger ones. A tussle between younger people can always be swept under the rug with a nonchalant – ‘Don’t fight like kids. Grow up!’ But what do you tell these senior-most people in the team who can’t keep their volumes in check while having an altercation or a difference of opinions. They have all the right in the world to fight and I do not in any way mean to take away the child inside them but there are children outside too and that they are taking keen interest in their behaviour is something they should give a thought about. Disha has a name for at least one of these members of the corporate fight club – Mr. Matchstick.

In her book, Disha has a long list of people you will encounter in a corporate world. She explains the symptoms, gives a name to the disease, and also provides antidotes. Whether the antidotes work is for you to try them out and decide. The book is an easy and short read. It will keep your funny bones tickling every once in a while.

I would have liked the book to be a tad more humorous than it is and also a tad more serious than it is. Also, the usage of Hindi words and phrases in Roman for characters may confuse the non-Hindi readers, thereby limiting its humour quotient for somebody who doesn’t understand a phrase like Mr. Gadha Prasad and its connotations. Maybe a footnote with meanings would have helped. Also, the book needs a sharper editing as I could find multiple occurrences of spelling error and word repetition.

In the initial days of my corporate journey, I had a colleague who used to get extra touchy while working. There were times I would find her feet almost tapping my toes while having an intense discussion about some product requirement. I couldn’t understand this behaviour. Initially, I presumed it to be an act she was not aware of and ignored it. However, things didn’t stop. I didn’t want to escalate this to the HR department and tried to take control of the situation. I decided to always keep a distance of about four feet from her during any discussion thereafter and things got better. Ms. Stand Closer & Closer finds a place in this book and I could easily relate it to my personal experience. For anyone out there preparing to enter the corporate world, reading Corporate Avatars can help you transition better in a world of ironies and hypocrisies.

While a lot of issues that have been spoken of in the book remain a challenge for researchers in the field of human psychology and behaviour, and while their answers are rarely simple, Disha has managed to pack easy-to-implement solutions to the anthropocentric problems that we face everyday at our workplace. The book manages to preserve its wacky tone throughout.

Whether we are a new entrant to the industry or have spent long years working inside it, we walk into or are put into situations with people where we hit a deadlock. Either we fail to reach a solution or act in haste to damage our working relationships at workplace. In such times, this book can provide some cursory, plug and play if not foolproof solutions. The objective of the book is to prevent you from coming in harm’s way and it keeps its promise.

I would have loved a note on the avatars the author is seen in by her colleagues. It could have added some self-deprecating humour to the book and would have made an interesting read; to Jaico and Disha, if you are reading this, in the next impression perhaps?

To the Survivors – From the Survivors

Do you know somebody who has been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives? Most likely you do! In India, a child under 16 is raped every 155 minutes and a child under 10 every 13 hours. Over 53% of children who participated in a Government study reported some form of sexual abuse and about 50% of abusers are known to the victims. In 95.5% of cases, the attacker was known to the rape victim in 2015. In the US, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.

If those numbers clutch you by your spine, know that rape also remains the most under-reported of all the crimes. In the US, about 63% of cases are not reported to the Police.

Robert Uttaro hasn’t written a book about numbers and figures because numbers are perhaps irrelevant to a survivor. Going by the percentage of unreported cases, they are also misleading at their best precision. Robert prefers the word ‘Survivor’ for a rape victim. The word victim is defeating and gives more power to the perpetrator whereas survivor gives the control back to the ones who are trying to overcome a tragedy. To many people who have suffered some form of sexual violence, identifying as a survivor is empowering. These numbers may move you, trouble you, or inspire you to do something about the problem. However, you would have started on the wrong foot because numbers don’t present to our mind and consciousness the real stories of these survivors. A victim has no use of such statistics. To understand an affected, we must listen to them when they choose to speak and that’s what Robert has managed to do successfully throughout this book.

A poem to start the book - by Jenee
A poem to start the book – by Jenee

The book starts with Robert’s own story of how he volunteered for THP (The Healing Place), understood that he didn’t understand a lot of things about rape survivors, and went about learning from his seniors and colleagues at THP. Robert works in the Outreach and Education wing of the center and the nature of his work has allowed him to ‘interact with, learn from, teach, and help a lot of people from different walks of life’. A major part of the book entails the stories of survivors who chose to volunteer for survivor speaker engagements. The author has recorded their stories as told by them voluntarily in conversation with him. While the survivors have spoken about how they were violated and what they did to heal themselves, the author has deftly steered the conversation to stress on different aspects of sexual violence through these narrations. While one conversation discusses the inadequacies of the legal system, another one talks about the role of one’s faith and spirituality in the healing process, done tangentially to the story being told so as to not dilute them. Robert Uttaro comes across as a great listener and a master conversationalist. It is a matter of fact that most of us don’t understand this crime well enough and such an arrangement of conversations fills the knowledge holes in our head.

The stories as told by the survivors take us into the deepest and most difficult chambers of their being. They speak about the assault, the assaulter, response from the family members, the realization to get healed, and the healing process. No two stories in the book are same and yet they are similar in more than one way. Stories differ because they are the stories of different individuals who have lived through the horrid experience. Their approach to life in the aftermath of an assault and the healing process is unique to them. However, the reader might feel similar pangs of pain in their gut and heart because all these survivors had to undergo something that shouldn’t befall anyone in the world. The stories are also similar because they all exude hope and help. These stories have been shared by victims who have chosen to become warriors against this crime.

Most of the people who saw me reading this book and had a look at the cover came up with one common response – “This is too heavy for me, I can’t read this book.” I’m not sure how Robert would react to this. Robert has tried to change this very approach to the subject of rape and sexual violence through this book. Our society must acknowledge that our legal system is inadequate in handling this problem. Instead of the perpetrator having a difficult time in the courts, the survivors have to live their assault repeatedly in the course of investigation and litigation. It is for us to understand that when a mere male voice can trigger a survivor who was raped by a male and send her into regression (read the book for the complete story), what does the reliving of the assault in open public do to them. The second point that our society must accept is that we as individuals and communities are miserable in our response to such incidents. We don’t teach this at school, we don’t teach this at university. The field is largely left to researchers and activists to explore and work in. When the crime is so common as to occur in every 6th individual’s lifetime, why are the most common people in our society not trained to respond with care, trust, and empathy if some survivor gathers courage to talk about the assault? With all our advancements, this unwillingness to talk about sexual violence in family, friend groups, schools, universities, or workplace is an unfortunate fact. Not only this creates a hostile atmosphere for anyone to speak out but also gives rise to a conducive environment for such assaults to take place and remain unnoticed. Mankind was perhaps born with a disability from the beginning. That we are not capable of empathising with the victim of a crime until we face it ourselves is a great bane and whenever there is somebody like Robert Uttaro who conquers this disability, it comes off as an exception rather than a norm.

The book could have used another iteration at the editor’s desk. However, that doesn’t take away from it the fact that it is one of most important books to have been published in our world and must be in our hands for us to understand this problem better. The most special part of the book for me is Jenee’s story and her thoughts on forgiveness. The book would have remained incomplete without it. If you’re trying to decide about getting your copy of the book, my suggestion would be to buy it and read it in silence with yourself, though Robert has another take on this.

I stepped into 2018 reading not only about one of the most heinous acts human race knows and indulges in but also about that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re a survivor reading this, know that help exists, inside and outside and it is possible to encounter light well before you reach the end of the tunnel. Robert Uttaro has penned down a book titled To The Survivors and the most remarkable thing about this book is his sincerity. I wish that human race presses the reset button and eliminates this act for as long as it inhabits this beautiful planet that is today dotted with the physical, psychological, spiritual scars of rape survivors. That they can’t be seen from within our tinted glasses by no means warrants that they do not exist. We are a bleeding race and the book tries to soothe and heal some of the deepest wounds we have inflicted upon ourselves.

 

 

 

References

crowdvoice.org
nsvrc.org
https://www.robertuttaro.com/

Cover of the book Commando for the review on Bookstalkist

Commando – No Mission is Impossible

I don’t remember the last time I read a non-fiction that kept me on the edge of my seat while I kept turning the pages, one after the other. Commandohappens to be that rare-breed of a non-fiction which makes your heart skip a beat and won’t let you put it down until you finish a chapter. However, you will want to pause, take a breath and soak in what you just read before you move on to the next chapter. The next chapter is going to be another breath-taking ride. Written by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, and published by Jaico Publishing House in India, Commando brings to you the real stories of some of the death-defying missions of the Israeli Special Forces.

The book starts with a scintillating narration of the legendary Entebbe Operation of 1976. But what makes it more interesting are the details of how this “insane” rescue plan was originally hatched, how it was improved and eventually approved by the cabinet, how the special forces impersonated Idi Amin and how they carried out a successful mission right under his nose within an unbelievable duration and how it was named Operation Yonatan eulogizing the courageous Yoni Netanyahu who laid down his life during the rescue. Although all these details must be available from the declassified archives of the IDF, one must credit the authors for knitting them into a gripping story. After this enthralling opening chapter, the book goes on to tell you about many such riveting missions starting from the Independence war in 1948 to the fight against Gaza terrorism in 2014.

Entebbe-Bookstalkist

Reading through each of these missions, one realizes how half the battle is won in the planning room far away from the battlefield. While the unfailing Israeli Intelligence and the far-sightedness of the commanders are commendable, the crazy ideas that these men came up with during extremely delicate situations are truly outstanding. But that is only half the battle. Even the best-conceived plans can go wrong and they did go wrong for the Israeli Forces. Some of these wrongs did result in tremendous loss of lives as in the case of Ammunition Hill. But their perseverance and presence of mind saw them through these glitches even when they were far away from home and they returned with great victory.

The book gives a peek into how Israel’s defence strategy has evolved with the ever-changing geopolitical landscape, the internal political situation, advancement of defence technology and the change of face of terrorism. The book doesn’t dive deep into the political reasons behind certain decisions but gives you transactional details of these operations. You also get introduced to some of the prominent figures of Israel, their interesting nick-names, their impressive careers, and how they together drove the fate of this Jewish nation.

In the beginning of the book, the authors talk about some of the important principles of the Israeli forces. In the words of the authors, “Israel’s army has been involved in two never-ending combats. A combat on the front lines with Israel’s enemies, who never give in, and an inner combat – the effort to conceive and apply strict moral and humane principles, unequaled by any other army.” They talk about “purity of arms”- referring to protection of non-combatant civilians on both sides of the enemy lines and “Follow me”- the battle cry of Israeli Army. Almost in all the missions curated in this book, one can see examples of how at every point during the mission, these forces and their commanding officers strive to enforce these principles. But the world hasn’t seen a war that has not claimed an innocent life. That goes for the Israeli Missions too. The authors do touch upon a few cases where civilians were killed and Israel was accused of human rights violation. However, if you are looking for a noble justification for these killings, you will be disappointed. You will instead find a defensive answer that says, “not too many were killed”.

The authors also talk about the Israeli principle of “Never abandon a wounded Jewish soldier”. The valour and spirit of medics and soldiers who sacrificed their own lives to rescue wounded soldiers is heart-wrenching. The book also ends with a fitting epilogue which speaks about the rescue of Jews from Ethiopia.

The book is an easy and engaging read, for the most part, giving you an adrenaline rush through every chapter. There might be an occasional drag but the authors make up for it with gaping stories from the battlefields. You might dream of MiGs, Mirages, Flotillas, Iron Domes, M-75 Missiles, handguns and Kalashnikovs in the days that follow. You might also lose sleep over devastating losses especially after reading Raya Harnik’s verses foreseeing her son Gioni “Goni” Harnik’s fate.

“That day I’ll stand, eyes wide open, facing the calamity

My whole life freezes before this tomorrow

A lodestone I am, iron doesn’t cry… “

Nevertheless, this is a book that must be read. This must be read, not just for the real scintillating tales, but also because it shows you the other side of the same truth. We live in times wherein we are constantly blinded by the stories and images carried by the newspapers, televisions, and other media. We almost always never get to hear the complete story. This book will be a significant piece in completing the story while studying the history of the Middle East.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras – Know Thy Self

“The simplest meaning of the word sutra is “thread”. A sutra is, so to speak, the bare thread of an exposition, the absolute minimum that is necessary to hold it together, unadorned by a single “bead” of elaboration. Only essential words are used. Often, there is no complete sentence-structure. There was a good reason for this method. Sutras were composed at a period when there were no books. The entire work had to be memorized, and so it had to be expressed as tersely as possible Patanjali’s Sutras, like all others, were intended to be expanded and explained. The ancient teachers would repeat an aphorism by heart and then proceed to amplify it with their own comments, for the benefit of their pupils. In some instances these comments, also, were memorized, transcribed at a later date, and thus preserved for us.”

From the Translators’ Foreword.

Continue reading “Patanjali Yoga Sutras – Know Thy Self”

The Colour of a People (The Ivory Throne-Part 3)

“who hold the secret of a perfect barter…”

The Ivory Throne can also be imagined as a palace in Travancore with its many chapters as many gateways of the palace from where caressing breezes and strong winds went out and, in the palace bringing with it many a tales of origin, exaggerated orders, larger than life anecdotes, thrilling mysteries and many a truths. Continue reading “The Colour of a People (The Ivory Throne-Part 3)”

Josephine MacLeod And Vivekananda’s Mission – A Song of Freedom

 

“Two weeks after her sudden departure for California, Swami Vivekananda praised Joe’s detachment, as noted in a letter from Betty to Joe, written October 27:

He spoke of “Joe” and said you were the only real soul who had “attained freedom among us all,” including himself. You could drop everything, everybody and go out without a thought of regret & do your work, that you had attained this through thousands of reincarnations, he had seen it in India & here. No luxury counted, no misery (as in India) mattered – [you were] the same poised soul, etc.

Continue reading “Josephine MacLeod And Vivekananda’s Mission – A Song of Freedom”