Book Review, Books, Uncategorized

The Girl On The Train – Book Review 

Though I kept hearing about The Girl On The Train I never had the urge to read it, not until I happened to read the summary one day. It was intriguing and the book came highly recommended so I decided to read it. 

The book started slow… Very slow, and sort of depressing. The lead character describes railway tracks and things she sees around them and I couldn’t help but yawn and wonder how long before the story begins. Numerous times I felt like dropping it, yet I continued because I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. I read on unwillingly and hated the grey gloomy feel of the story. 

The story is not even lukewarm until about half way and then it picks up pace. I was drawn not because I started liking the story but because I couldn’t guess the mystery. The plot gets complex and it’s sort of commendable given that there are only a handful of characters. The suspense is brilliant and keeps you guessing for a very long time. Things only get clearer towards the very end but it doesn’t give you the euphoric high of a solved mystery, there seems to be something missing.

I didn’t like the way the book was written. The language is bland and the story progresses as a simple narration of events – “she saw this and then she did that to which someone responded something”. I also found it very disturbing for some reason. Even before the flaws of the characters were revealed it made me uncomfortable and sad. All characters are troubled by something or the other, there’s not a single note of happiness in the entire book. In the beginning the author doesn’t talk about how the characters are feeling, as a result you don’t feel any connection with any of them. The main character is so pathetic that you don’t even feel sorry for her. You don’t feel sorry for anyone despite each one of them having something worth feeling sorry for! 

But even with the flaws I think the book does what it is supposed to do. It maintains suspense, makes you feel uneasy and in fact towards the end it made me feel scared even in my own home!! 

It is a good thriller for someone who likes this kind of books, but it certainly is not the kind of book I prefer reading. It was heavy and sad and made me wish I hadn’t read it. 

Read it if you like psycho thrillers.

Desperately looking for recommendations of a happy book to wash away the gloomy mood of this one!

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

-A

Book Review, Uncategorized

The Palace of Illusions – Book Review 

I am fairly interested in ancient tales of Ramayan and Mahabharat and have followed closely whenever they were telecast on television yet I never gave enough thought to Draupadi. Everytime I watched I didn’t think beyond what I saw.

The Indian society rarely glorifies women or even gives them more importance than absolutely necessary, and the same thing happened with Draupadi. All popular versions of Mahabharat talk about how her birth was a byproduct of a huge yagna, how she married 5 pandavas and how her humiliation in court led to the great war….. And that’s about it. 

The first couple of times I heard about the book that tells the story through Draupadi’s eyes I didn’t even give it a second thought. I mean tell me again why should I be interested in knowing her point of view? Until one day when positive reviews poured in for it on an online book club and I was intrigued. 

The book engrossed me from the very beginning. Even when I wasn’t reading I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It may be a work of fiction but the way the author has woven the story around facts makes it feel real. Draupadi’s feelings – be it the initial rejection by her father or her desire to sit through the lessons with her brother, the camaraderie she shared with Dhri, her curiosity when she was shown pictures of various princes for the Syamavar, her power struggle with her mother-in-law, jealousy for the other wives of her husband’s – all make her human and not a mere subject of a mythological tale.

The book tells a tale I have seen and heard numerous times before in a refreshing way. It also has some great quotes that resonate with truth and wisdom, and make the book even more appealing.

Your childhood hunger is the one that never leaves you

As I got closer to end the book evoked plethora of emotions. I felt sorry for the love she couldn’t have, the mistake she couldn’t correct and the tragedy she had to witness. The countless deaths during the war brought the fear of death followed by a temporary feeling of detachment. 

At the end I felt so sad when she states that she longed for love yet didn’t find it all her life. I felt sorry for the girl with innocent curiosity, the beautiful bride many desired, the Queen who had five powerful husbands but not the love she craved for so passionately.

The end is poetic and emotionally intense. It left me numb, exactly how I felt when I finished reading Kite Runner and after watching Bajirao Mastani and The Bridges of Madison County. Such was the impact that I went back and reread part of the book right away and didn’t pick another for a few days thereafter, wondering which book will be able to match the charisma of The Palace of Illusions.

What stands out in the book besides her passion for someone who she couldn’t have is her exceptional relationship with Krishna. We all know his role at her worst moment very well but the way Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s tale involves him in Draupadi’s entire life makes their relationship very endearing. He was with her even before her birth and stayed after everyone had left. Krishna’s tender affection in her last moments makes her as well as me feel peace. That is love in its purest form. Yet Draupadi couldn’t see it all her life.

Isn’t this what happens to most of us? We keep looking for love, wealth, happiness…. All the time blinded by our own craving, not realising that the very thing we desire we possess already in some other form. 

The book gives you much food for thought and I’m sure it’ll stay with me for a very very long time. 

Truth, when it’s being lived is less glamorous than our imaginings.

If you haven’t read it yet you are missing a great piece of literature.

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

-A

Uncategorized

Happy Teacher’s Day

Happy Teacher’s Day to all the mothers and fathers. As they say, home is a child’s first school and a mother his first teacher. We teach our kids everything starting day 1 – how to latch, how to eat, how to sleep… later we teach them alphabets and numbers and when they are all grown up we teach them how to handle success and take failures in their stride. We teach them not just about science and maths but about relationships, people and emotions as well. We are not just teachers, we are life coach.

In fact, in one way or the other, we are all teachers. We teach things to our friends, neighbors, relatives and we learn from many people around us. Let’s all celebrate this lovely bond and continue to be great teachers and great students.

Love,

-A

Parenting, Uncategorized

Parenting Workshop (kids 0-5 years): Day 2

Session 2 of Parenting Workshop started with a small interactive exercise. We were given a situation and asked to write down our feelings on a sheet of paper. It would help if you write down yours too. Here it is…. 

You had a lousy day at work. Your boss gave you some work to be done by the end of the day, you started working on it but there was an emergency that came up in some project and it took your whole day to sort out the mess. You didnt have time to breathe, you had late lunch at your desk and completely forgot about the work your boss gave you. When you are getting ready to leave much later than usual your boss came up and asked for it and you tell him that some other thing came up which took your entire day but he was not in a mood to listen and yelled at you in front of your colleagues saying rude things like he’s not paying to listen to your excuses, and walks away. You need to pick up your child from day care so you can’t stay longer and finish the work. Back home you narrate the incident to different people, who react in different ways. You need to write down how you feel for each reaction. Don’t mention what they are trying to say, or how they are trying to deal with your mood or the situation, write only about your feelings.

1. You tell your husband about what happened and he says “Its just your job, why take it to heart. Just let it go”

2. Your parents say “Life is like that, sometimes shit happens and you need to accept it”

3. Your siblings say “How dare he yell at you in front of everyone without even listening to your side of the story? You need to confront him tomorrow and give him a piece of your mind. If he still doesn’t listen just put in your papers. That will serve him right.”

4. Your colleague says “But how could you forget about that work? What was the other thing that came up? Couldn’t it wait? Couldn’t you stay late in office and complete it ? What are you going to do now?”

5. Your elderly Uncle and Aunt say “Maybe he had a bad day and took out his frustration on you. Its not easy being a boss, he’s answerable to so many people….”

6. Your friend says “Oh… how horrible! must have been so embarrassing to be yelled at in front of everyone. You must be so angry.

Now, lets see what we felt in each case…

1. Not understood because the job is important to you

2. Not empathized

3. Slightly comforted but you know what they are suggesting is not right

4. Irritated

5. They are defending the other party… how unfair

6. Empathized, understood, comforted

In short, cases 1-5 deny our feelings of anger and frustration at the situation and that’s why they don’t help us feel better after sharing. 6 puts us at ease by saying that she understands and accepts our feelings.

The same goes for our children. We need to accept each and every feeling of our child, listen to it and acknowledge it. Its ok for the child to feel angry, jealous, hate, frustration…. though its not always acceptable to act on these feelings. Constant denial of feelings result in the child losing trust in himself.

For example, a child is jealous of his younger sibling. When we say how can you be jealous of your baby brother, he’s so cute and he smiles at you, we are denying him his feeling. We need to say something like “I understand you are jealous of your little brother because he takes up all of Mama’s time, but he is too small to do anything himself so Mama needs to help him more” 

Even when we say things like “How can you not be hungry, you ate 5 hours ago? You are hungry but you are not realizing”, or “How can you not feel cold, its freezing here.” or when we see the child fall while playing and we are sure it didn’t hurt much, yet the child comes to us crying and we tell him that it was nothing and that there is no reason to cry we are not trusting him with his feeling of not being hungry and cold and hurt. 

When our child comes to us to share any feeling, we need to avoid:

  • Denial of feelings (case 1)
  • Philosophical response (case 2)
  • Advice (case 3)
  • Questions (case 4)
  • Defend the other party (case 5)

As a parent, we do need to give them philosophical advice and help them see other person’s perspective but don’t do it when the child has brought the issue to you. Do it at a later, neutral time when the child has calmed down.

When children are fighting among themselves, its best not to interfere and let them resolve it on their own until they start hurting each other. When they want to play with the same toy, don’t give the other kid privilege to play with the toy… either they share it, play with it together or take turns or nobody gets the toy. Most times parents are hard on their child and expect their child to let go, this may seem like a small gesture but it impacts the child.

When you are angry at something the child did, like spilling water on the floor or creating a mess in the house, state your feelings of being angry at the situation, but not accuse the child for it by saying things like “I am angry because there is water on the floor, or because the house is in such a mess.” Again, avoid making it personal. 

Natural consequences to something your child does are ok but not punishments. Eg. You go shopping one day with your child and he creates a scene in the super market demanding candy or a toy and you could not finish your shopping. Next time you go, don’t take him along saying that last time when you took him you couldn’t shop. This is a natural consequence. But when you deny him icecream for creating a scene in the mall, it is a punishment.

Teach the child to understand and name his feelings. Identifying makes dealing with feelings easier. Use lot of words identifying his feelings in your day to day communication with the child, and try and equate it to his feelings at the moment.

– When your child is upset, listen with full intent. Give 100% attention to connect

– Acknowledge the feeling with a word eg. Ah.. I see, Ok…

– Give the feeling a name

– Resist the temptation to give advice and make it better for the child

Don’t create a praise junkie. Let them focus on the task, don’t let them do it only to get the praise. Let them have the pleasure of doing something well. Praise reduces the sense of achievement.

Alternatives to praise:

– Appreciation –> Acknowledge by actions

– Say what you see, avoid generic adjectives like “good job”, “very nice”

– Ask them about their experience eg. how they felt when they ran fast

– Use your feelings to state good things that the child did eg. Mamma was happy when you finished your food

– Make sure you don’t say it to manipulate the child

Too much generic praise puts pressure on the child. A lady at the workshop shared her experience with her 6-7 year old daughter. She said her daughter was so good at everything she did that they kept praising her all the time. Now she’s got the feeling that she IS good at everything and can’t do anything wrong. So, now if she’s making a drawing and is not able to get the sun round enough she gets very upset. She feels pressurized to do things perfectly.

Also, when you praise using words like ‘finally’, ‘at last’ it also has a negative edge to it and so should be avoided. Eg. Finally you gave the right spelling for all the words.

These are just little things and most times we know them already but it takes only a bit of effort to remember and follow. 

xoxo,

-A

Uncategorized

Mother’s day wish of every Mom! ;)

I saw this pic on a Facebook group I am a member of, and I knew I just had to share it. Isn’t it a dream come true for any mother to have at least a few of these wishes fulfilled? If only I could have these gifts, would be the bestest Mother’s Day ever! 😀

Image

Well, these gifts or not, the best gift we can give to self is to take better care of ourselves. Eat healthy as we hand out fresh fruit and juices to our kids and keep a check on fat and sugar intake of hubbies, get some exercise ourselves too as we nag our husbands to spend more time on the treadmill and encourage our children to spend more time outdoors, go for regular health check ups for our own just what we push our parents and in laws for, and above all stay positive and happy as we advise our friends and fellow moms time and again.

Happy Mother’s Day to every mom out there. Remember, you are the BEST mom and a beautiful person inside out.

Love,

xoxo

-A