Friday, December 09, 2011

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

This story is incredible. What's even more incredible about it is that is true. Roberts is a fantastic writer. The novel is about him - he is an escaped convict from Australia and somehow ends up in India. When his visa expires, he lives in a Mumbai slum establishing a free medical clinic and then gets entrenched in the Mumbai underworld.

Roberts writes beautifully but there is one quote that I want to share (more can be found here).
"At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread instead is that we won't stop loving them, even after they are dead and gone."
There are very few people in the world I trust and love unconditionally. At many points in this book, I actually cried. To be loved wholeheartedly is a blessing.

Lin (Robert's adopted name in the book) goes to his friend's Prabahakar's village and meets his family. He is so overwhelmed with how welcoming they are and how they don't question anything about his past. I have never had that experience. I generally get bombarded with questions on all the things that stress me out like education (took the long route), work (job hunting fun times), marriage, etc. I finally reached a good point on all of those but the constant barraging always appeared like they didn't have faith in me. I wanted one person to just say I know you will figure it out even though it might not seem like it. South Asian people generally treat guests way better than their own family.

It doesn't matter where you live or what you do, when you feel like part of a community it makes all the difference. Lin lives in the slum and he becomes part of its diverse family. For once, he feels like he belongs. How much each neighbor cares for each other is quite amazing.  I suppose when you are working towards a common goal of satisfying one's basic needs of food and shelter all the other differences like caste or religion don't seem important.  When the basic needs are fulfilled however, humans tend to find other things that separate each other...

This book is definitely worth the read.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Small novels are the perfect novels for long train rides to work. Even though I am tempted to take longer reads they are just way too heavy to carry when you need a free hand to hold onto a pole/bar. Anyway, this book was really good. For the simple reason that truth is often stranger than fiction. This is a memoir about a girl and her very unique and crazy parents. It's a wonder that she and her siblings are even alive and doing remarkably well now. There were two thoughts that came to my mind while reading this.

I am very blessed to have my parents. I know I don't acknowledge them enough though. Jeannette's parents basically leave their kids to fend for themselves, even though they always stay together as a family. Her parents' goals are not to provide them with the best they can offer them, but are just kind of there. There are several times where I think the kids take better care of their parents... It makes me wonder what is the "coddling line"? Parents cannot take care of every detail of their kids' lives, there has to be a point where they let go. I think a major goal of parents should be to teach their kids to be self-sufficient. It's something I don't often feel I know how to do. I don't blame my parents in any way of course; I think I am one of those people who needs to be "thrown into the water to learn how to swim". I never felt I learned to be somewhat self-sufficient until I was on my own in college and now working.  If parents or someone always takes care of you - when is the point that a person will learn to take care of him/herself?

The second major thought that occurred to me is poverty a choice or circumstance? Jeannette really tries as an adult to get her parents off the street (they are homeless), but they refuse. They actually like living on the streets. It's hard to believe but as I read that novel I understood why the characters felt that way. They are free-spirited and being constrained to a certain location and to daily mundane routines would never work for them. I see many homeless poor people while walking to work. They solicit for money, etc. Is it by circumstance they end up there - could there be no other option than to resort to begging? However there is one guy who is my favorite. He shouts "Good morning!" to everyone that walks by in a loud, cheery voice. I think he sleeps on the bench in that park every day but he is happy and he doesn't ask for a penny. Is he there by choice?

Poverty is not a passive event. Or is it? I am not quite sure after reading this book. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

I haven't written in this blog for a while, life has happened. Lot has changed and much more to come! I haven't found the same pleasure in reading that I used to :( and I am determined to get that same rush again!

I moved to a new library system (that's always wierd) and am getting used to the way they operate. I suppose I have been nostalgic about the days when I was a kid, which inspired me to pick up this book. I am a huuuge fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and picked this one up by chance to see if it fell in the same category.

It wasn't that bad. The main character's only fault is that he doesn't like to read and will do anything to get out of doing it. I suppose I couldn't relate on a personal level because the protagonist seems to be pretty good at everything else! His friends never isolate him and everyone is so normal in his life. I wanted a character with more depth and slight angst and who makes mistakes, whose family is not normal, etc. Because seriously in whose life are people "normal" or "average"? I think it would have been nice if the author had linked not reading to meaning Charlie was not doing well at school either. How else would he know those big words and give awesome presentations? It just didn't fit exactly.

Maybe younger kids might find this book a fun read, but it definitely doesn't cross over to the adult reader.