Category Archives: Reading Ramana

The Secret Garden

Soon after I finished Notes From A Small Room, I picked up Frances Hodgson Bennett’s The Secret Garden. I completed it over the weekend.

The Secret Garden is the story of Mary Lennox, a little English girl who is lives in India with her parents. A sudden outbreak of cholera renders her an orphan, and she is taken to England to live with her uncle and guardian henceforth, Mr. Archibald Craven. Mary has never received love or the right kind of attention from her parents and, as a result, is a rather sour-faced child who does not like anyone or anything. The ‘contrary’ Miss Mary is pale and sickly as well. Little does Mary realize when she sets foot in Mr. Craven’s huge countryside mansion – Misselthwaite Manor – that her life is about to take a huge turn.

Mary finds that Misselthwaite Manor has an air of mystery around it, and soon grows curious. She discovers the joys of living in the beautiful English countryside. She begins to explore the mansion and its huge lawns and, in the process, gains a healthy appetite and starts growing into an agreeable and sweet child. One day, playing about in the Manor’s lawns, she finds the key to the Secret Garden, which has been locked ever since the death of the pretty Mrs. Craven – as her husband cannot bear to enter it. Mary sets foot into the Secret Garden, which no one has gone into for a decade and is awed by the beauty of it. She realizes that the garden has been gradually dying, and is saddened by the thought that it might soon be completely dead. It is the Secret Garden that helps change Mary, by inculcating the love of nature in her and bringing her some close friends.

I must say this has been the most life-affirming and positive books I have read in quite a while. It is definitely a book with soul, where everything is alive and teeming with life. It is about change and the beauty of life. It is about friendship and recovery. However, I must confess that I was somehow not charmed by the book in its entirety. I did love the way parts of it were written – they touched me so much that I had to close my eyes and smile, as I imagined the scene in my mind. This book did make me imagine a lot – I could quite see the Secret Garden in my mind’s eye, and I even craved for one of my own. Overall, though, it did not make me fall in love for life, the way Paddington Bear or 84 Charing Cross Road did. I feel I read it with too much of a cynical adult’s eye and not the way a child would. Maybe I ruined the book for myself. Maybe I should read and feel it again.

What say you? Have you read this book? How did you feel about it?

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Notes From A Small Room

It’s the simple things in life that keep us from going crazy,’ says Ruskin Bond in ‘Notes From A Small Room’, and I am bound to agree. In the craziness of everyday life, it is the simple things that touch our heart, reaffirm our faith, and help us retain our sanity. I can’t agree more with Ruskin Bond. Little things like a familiar song or a sudden evening downpour or a beautiful sunset or an unexpected smile or kind word have often made my day, and stopped me from losing my mind over the craziness of the world. It is no wonder, then, that I loved Ruskin Bond’s ‘Notes From A Small Room’, which is all about the simple and small things in life, that give us unparallelled pleasure. How can you not fall in love with lines like ‘I stretch myself out on the cot under a sky brilliant with stars. And as I close my eyes, someone brushes against the lime tree, bruising its leaves; and the good fresh fragrance of lime comes to me on the night air, making that moment memorable for all time.’ or ‘It’s a good sound to read by – the rain outside, the quiet within – and, although tin roofs are given to springing unaccountable leaks, there is in general a feeling of being untouched by, and yet in touch with, the rain.’?

Notes From A Small Room is a collection of short essays – Ruskin Bond’s ode to all the little things that we often overlook in the rush of life. It covers a wide range of things – from Ruskin’s favourite smells and sounds, to little incidents with his family, friends and his cat Suzie that will always remain in his memory, and even his very first typewriter. Ruskin Bond writes about his experiences in Shimla, Dehradun and Landour, and moments when he felt one with nature. He meditates on things like the difference a perfect window makes to a room, his philosophy in life, and his thoughts on reaching 75 years of age. He also reflects on something he has a passionate love for – books.

I could so, so, so relate to the author – it almost felt as if he had read my soul and were writing about it. I so understood what Ruskin Bond means when he says, ‘This morning I was pondering on this absence of a philosophy or religious outlook in my make-up, and feeling a little low because it was cloudy and dark outside, and gloomy weather always seems to dampen my spirits. Then the clouds broke up and the sun came out, large, yellow splashes of sunshine in my room and upon my desk, and almost immediately I felt an uplift of spirit. And at the same time, I realised that no philosophy would be of any use to a person so susceptible to changes in light and shade, sunshine and shadow. I was a pagan, pure and simple; a sensualist; sensitive to touch and colour and fragrance and odour and sounds of every description; a creature of instinct, of spontaneous attractions, given to illogical fancies and attachments.’

The book contains almost 40 entries, each of them short and extremely simple – typical Ruskin Bond style – but none of them failed to get to me. Each piece is a gem, filled with wit, and it feels as if the writer has put his heart and soul in them. Take this for example – ‘I have made a small bench in the middle of this civilised wilderness… this is my favourite place. No one can find me here, unless I call out and make my presence known. The buntings and sparrows grow “accustomed to my face”. And welcoming the grain I scatter for them, flit about near my feet. One of them, bolder than the rest, alights on my shoe adn proceeds to polish his beak on the leather. The sparrows are here all the year round. So are the whistling thrushes, who live in the shadow between the house and the hill, sheltered by a waterwood bush, so called because it likes cold, damp places.’ or this – ‘When the trees saw me, they made as if to turn in my direction. A puff to wind came across the valley from the distant snows. A long-tailed blue magpie took alarm and flew noisily out of an oak tree. The cicadas were suddenly silent. But the trees remembered me. They bowed gently in the breeze and beckoned me nearer, welcoming me home.’

 It’s been a long, long time since a book has taken over my heart so completely with delight, and kept me constantly smiling. It has made me more sensitive to nature, to the little things around me, and urged me not make time for the simple wonders that life and nature constantly gives us, and to write about them. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy from inside.

I needed this book to happen in my life now, and I didn’t realise it till I read it. Has that happened to you?

I’m charmed by Notes From A Small Room, and am completely head over heels in love with it. This is one book that goes into my library, and stays with me, to be read over and over again, to be shared with loved ones, and passed on over generations. If you haven’t read this one already, grab  a copy NOW! 🙂

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The Way We Were

 

I picked up Elizabeth Noble’s The Way We Were soon after I returned from our trip, and just finished it yesterday. I must say that I quite liked the book, though I wouldn’t consider it among my favourite Noble books.

The Way We Were is the story of Susannah, and it begins from where she was best friends with Amelia and the two of them studied together in a school in the English countryside. Rob joins the same school as Susannah, and the two of them become school sweethearts. Rob’s parents are all approval for his relationship with Susannah, and both of them are pretty serious about it too. However, something happens with makes Susannah break up with Rob. A few years later, she gets married to Sean, but the marriage soon ends unhappily. She is in a live-in relationship with Douglas a few years after Sean, divorced from his first wife, and the father of three kids. She does find pieces of happiness here and there in her relationship with Douglas, but nothing like what she felt with Rob. She comes across Rob again at her brother’s wedding and old sparks are rekindled. I don’t think I should discuss the story any further because that would be giving it away.

I liked the way the character of each person in the story has been built – the working of each person’s mind put down in a crystal clear fashion, you can almost see it. The characters are real, as are the situations, and I could relate to the book. This book is narrated in a quite different way from Elizabeth Noble’s other books that I have read earlier. I enjoyed this narrative too, and the book had me gripped till the end. However, I did not feel the same impact that I have felt from the other books by Elizabeth Noble. The end disappointed me – it broke the impression of Rob that I had built all along.

When I narrated the story of this book to the better half, he commented that it sounded depressing. I had to agree with that – the book is indeed depressing – but it had me so caught up in it that the fact didn’t glare at me in the face. Makes sense?

The Way We Were is a light read, but not flippant. It is thought-provoking, and has soul in it. I would definitely recommend it, only with the note that it is not the best of the author’s books.

Have you read this book? How did you feel about it?

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The Undomestic Goddess

I had heard a lot about Sophie Kinsella novels, and finally I got around to reading one – The Undomestic Goddess. And I loved it. In spite of it being a typical chick-lit, sometimes illogical, sometimes too filmi.

The Undomestic Goddess is the story of Samantha Sweeting, hot-shot city lawyer, who has an above-average IQ and earns hundreds of dollars every 6 minutes. She works with Carter Spink, one of the most prestigious law firms in the city, and is running for partnership in the firm. She knows of no life outside Carter Spink, but being the workaholic that she is, she loves it all. She thrives under pressure, and laps up all the challenges that the management throws her way. Her dearest and most-cherished dream is to become a partner in Carter Spink. Just when this dream is on the verge of realisation, Samantha realises she has committed a dreadful mistake in her work, which will put the firm to a loss of millions of dollars. Samantha takes the easy way out – she runs away from the city.

Samantha somehow reaches a beautiful mansion in the countryside, where she is mistaken for a housekeeper. Unable to find a way out of her situation, Samantha accepts the job of housekeeper with two of the most gregarious – and the sweetest, as it is later revealed – employers, Eddie and Trish. Samantha bluffs her way through the interview and Eddie and Trish are impressed. Samantha is required to cook, dust, clean, wash, and iron. But she knows nothing of these. She has never even switched on an oven or sewn a button in her life so far.

The highly undomestic goddess Samantha meets gardener Nathaniel at Trish and Eddie’s place, and then her life changes for ever. I’ll not tell you more, for that would take the suspense away. I would just say it is a lovely, light read, perfect for a lazy day. I don’t know if I would have done the same thing as Samantha in her situation, but I still thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the book.

What I loved about this book is that the heroine is not just a bimbo – a blonde fit for nothing else but to pout and look pretty. She is a woman of substance, and Sophie Kinsella has brought that out beautifully. Actually, I loved all the characters in the book – they are all full of spunk and soul, and quirkiness. 🙂

Sophie Kinsella is hilarious, and I’m definitely going to pick up more books by her. Do give this one a shot. Definitely recommended.

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Mind Blogs 1.0

Some time back, Christina Daniels asked me if I’d like to review a book she has co-authored with Zahid Javali and Nirmala Govindarajan. I was more than happy to accept, since I liked Christina’s first book Ginger Soda Lemon Pop quite a bit. This book is called Mind Blogs 1.0, and it did not disappoint me either. 🙂

Mind Blogs 1.0 is all about the personal experiences of the three authors – things they have felt good and bad about, mostly about Bangalore. That said, anyone, anywhere can relate to the feelings communicated in the book. The language is simple and the stories are touching, making for a wonderful, light read.

Reminiscent of the Chicken Soup For The Soul series, Mind Blogs 1.0 also covers a variety of personal incidents – the time when Zahid became a bakra, the time when Christina felt helpless over the riots in her beloved Bangalore, and the time when Nirmala felt frustrated at the utter dependancy of smokers on their ciggies. That makes the book heartily entertaining, and at no place does the reader get bored. Most incidents touched a chord with me.

Zahid’s stories provide the touch of humour in Mind Blogs 1.0, while Nirmala’s are dreamy and thoughtful. I could relate to Christina’s stories the most – they were about women, herself, her feelings, her love for her city, and soul-searching.

The book is written in a unique format – it is just like a blog, only in the shape of a physical book. It even has newspaper ads before a few articles to create the feeling of a blog. The articles, too, are written like blog posts – short and crisp.

I would recommend this book to all those who are looking for a light but thoroughly enjoyable and soulful read.

Thanks, Christina, for this! 🙂

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About the authors:

Christina Daniels is the author of Ginger Soda Lemon Pop. Zahid Javali and Nirmala Govindarajan are senior journalists with leading publications in the country.

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Cover love :)

I am so in love with this cover! 🙂 Isn’t it absolutely lovely?

I loved the title of the book, too. It speaks to me of the love of a mother, unconditional, pure. I don’t know what the book really is about, though.

I also came across another cover of the same book which I loved just as much:

You like?

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The Shop On Blossom Street

I quite liked Debbie Macomber’s Between Friends, and when I saw her book The Shop On Blossom Street priced at a throwaway rate on a random visit to a book store, I just could not resist buying it. It turned to be a nice, light, cosy read just like Between Friends, loaded with the feel-good factor and mush. I would classify The Shop On Blossom Street into chick lit, being the breezy and comfortable book that it is. The Shop On Blossom Street is the story of Lydia, a 30-year-old who has had cancer twice and survived it, and who loves knitting. Knitting is her way of getting away from the pains and miseries of her life. As a reaffirmation of her faith in life, Lydia opens a yarn shop on the busy Blossom Street, and also decides to conduct knitting classes.

Three women join the classes – Carol, Alix and Jacqueline – each one vastly different in personality from the other.  Carol is the wife of a rich and loving husband Doug, and all the efforts they have put into having a biological child of their own has put them to great pain. A baby is all that Carol wants from God, and she joins the knitting class when she sees that the first project they will be working on is a baby blanket. Jacqueline is the snooty , pampered and spoilt wife of the rich contractor Reese, whose marriage is slowly dying, and who absolutely hates Tammie Lee, the girl that her precious son got married to. Jacqueline joins the knitting class to learn how to make a baby blanket for Tammie Lee, as an attempt to patch up with her.  Alix is a softie beneath her punk clothing and hair, and joins the class to serve time for a court sentence that she has gotten by mistake.

Carol, Jacqueline and Alix do not really get off to a good start, but their friendship grows with time. The three ladies – and Lydia – begin sharing the woes of their lives, and grow much, much closer than where they started from. Throughout all this, Lydia’s relationship with her sister Margaret, which hasn’t always been great, goes through a sea change.

Some moments in the story are beautifully written, but I found some parts very fairytale-ish. Had they been different, more realistic, I would have loved this book a whole lot more. What I mean to say is that I enjoyed reading the book, but I found nothing different.  However, it is a nice read for those who are looking for just an easy read and nothing more.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

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