Monday, 31 March 2014

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

From The Life of William Grimes to the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, slavery in fiction and reality is not something thats easily digestible to the modern man, it makes him flinch with disgust and the details churns his stomach in ways detestable. 12 Years a slave is the autobiography of a freeman, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery and redeemed 12 years later. Solomon Northrup lived in a time of great turmoil (which eventually culminated in the American Civil War) when the american consciousness was torn between freedom and slavery, with the southern states supporting strongly the institution of slavery and the northern states strongly condemning the devilish practice. What happened of it is a matter of history and of little importance to the book.

Solomon Northup was born to a freeman and spent his childhood working in his fathers farm, later he went on to move to Minerva after his marriage. The rest of the particulars of his life again is academic in nature now. He was a carpenter by profession, an educated, trained and unsuspecting man, who was lured by two strangers with the promise of a more rewarding job and then sold into slavery in the slave pens of New Orleans. The one thing that differentiated this man from the rest of the slaves around him was the fact that he knew what freedom meant, a fact that he had to conceal cleverly due to the fear of punishment and torture.

Solomon's narrative of his on experience as a slave is mostly objective but it brims with a feeling of distance towards the whole of life. His need or desire to be as much away from the most torturous 12 years of his life is easily reflected in his writing. Its neither flowery nor flaunting oratory of any nature, just an observation of what he had to endure and how he did so. His account of life he saw happen around hims and what it meant to him. The most wonderful thing about Solomon's narrative is that he didn't demonize the villains in his story, they were definitely villains but he reserved crude judgements to a very appreciable degree. 

The book '12 years a slave' by Solomon Northup is a good old slave narrative that objectively illustrates the life of a slave and his livelihood through the eyes of a freeman that he was. The book offers a clear perspective into the working of the institution of slavery and explains why the masters behaved as they did and for what end. Solomon explains that not all his masters were cruel and each had his own on way getting what they wanted form his slaves, from treated them a little as men and others terrified them. some gave them little comforts and rewards others gave them nothing and kept them that way.

Buy your copy at 

In association with 'Pirates' A Publishing House.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Adorable Kittens by Anand

More pictures from my brother of his adorable kittens who are unfortunately no more.

The adorable kittens photographed by brother, the Ansel Adams of our clan.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Man Who Took the Train to Pakistan

It is always a sad and unfortunate event that a wordsmith of his caliber must pass away but as the inherent nature of things goes one who is born must one day die. He doesn't have anything to complain about though for he got a pretty long quantum of quality life. The very best any man can do is to leave a mark on the face of earth and be remembered and be alive through history. The honorable Khushwant Singh, the man with much malice has did just that, he may have left his body and unified with the ultimate but a part of him he left in each one us, each one of us who had enjoyed his jokes and cherished his Train to Pakistan or The Company of Women. 

The first book I read of his was hood book of jokes, they were all hilarious and one's whose humor you could savor for a long time after the first reading. Much later did I come across his prime jewel 'The Train to Pakistan', to read that book was an entirely different and surreal experience. A book that brought out the reality of partition and the things it left broken in its wake. The least of his books that I read was 'The Company of Women' and yet again a different book, one that me to look at things differently of what the company of an women meant to me. 

Shri Khushwant Singh Ji had touched me in his own unique way and his literature and his ideology of vocal and objective expression of difference has influenced me a lot in my journey. There was a time I wished I could meet him and get his autograph, but that will never be I guess. Yesterday India lost one of it's very best writer and columnist and I grieve along with the nation at our combined loss. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Love Diet by Shonali Sabherwal

The very first impression of The Love Diet by Shonali Sabherwal india's best nutritionologist was of disappointment as the book was of questionable quality. Considering that it comes with a 250 Indian rupee price tag ( that's approximately a little now than 4 US dollars), I was disappointed at the off white or rather brownish paper and the less than premium front cover that the book featured. The paper brightness severely affects and compromises the readability and the feel of the book.  What surprised me further is the fact that the book came from the stables of a globally reputed publishing house such as Random House. The book reflects very badly on them a degree greater than it does on anyone else.

But then again a book must not be judged by it's cover or it's paper quality alone but by the quality of the matter it's pages contain. Ms Shonali starts off with a lengthy description of the eastern history of medicine and it's many interpretations be it the yin and yang from China or the chakras from India. She goes on to elaborate the need for balance of forces and how food can achieve it and how food can in turn affect and alter your essential balance. Now history and information is good but where it goes out of hand is when it lasts for almost two thirds of the book and that's when it borders and then slowly crosses into rhetoric. She goes on and on about the nature of relationships and out of place rhetorics about mind and body and the healing power of the soul. Almost always they are the things that we are constantly hearing. But she does have some interesting sections of popular myth busting and much needed classifications on food habits.

The 130 page rhetoric lecture does finally  move into the much awaited section on recipes of love and healing. Some them are quite interesting and not mention extremely delicious and mouth watering even on paper.  Fascinating. If you ask me this is what I will say as the most appealing part of the whole book is to me. This is what the book was about and what all the drum roll led up-to. But again here  I feel that much more could have been done. Brief descriptions of how the recipe works and why it's a love dish could have be more promising and useful than all of the 130 page rhetoric on things that already everyone knows and nobody gives a damn about.

My final verdict for the book is simple, it's not all a waste of money and effort. But at the same time much more could have be done to make the book a far better one. Frankly the book just feels out of place in it's avatar, its a coffee book trapped in a textbook. Random house turned what is clearly a coffee table book containing a lot of colorful dishes and their recipes complete with short meaningful descriptions of how they enhance you and your love into pages and pages of bubbling rhetoric on a less than impressive packaging.