Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Book thief

When death has a story to tell, you listen.

We are introduced to Death-as-a-storyteller at the beginning of Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief”. This is no Grim Reaper but a kinder, gentler Death, who has sympathy for the souls he takes away. As Death himself puts it, “I can be Amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s.” 

About

This book isn’t about Death, it’s about death, it’s about 1939, Nazi Germany. It’s about how the country is holding its breath. But principally, it’s about Liesel Meminger, whose little brother dies and her mom leaves her with her foster parents in a dismal town of Munich. 

Her foster father, Hans Hubermann, the implausibly saintly man, who beautifully plays the accordion and also taught Liesel to read and write in the dark of the night.   

And her foster mom, Rosa Hubermann, who beats Liesel, and uses foul language, and refers to her husband and foster daughter as ‘filthy pigs’. But still, she cares for Liesel, and as Death eventually tells us, “She was a good woman for a crisis.”

Liesel finds ways of coping with her losses. She becomes a thief. She commits her first crime at the brother’s funeral when she steals “The Grave Digger’s Handbook”. While she sometimes joins a gang to steal food and stuff, her passion is only for books. She doesn’t care if it’s a good book or a bad book, she just cares for the book.

The story appears a bit slow until Max Vandenburg, a Jewish boxer, arrives at the Hubermann’s doorstep. It turns out that Hans’s accordion is actually a debt to Erik Vandenburg, Max’s father, a friend who saved Hans’s life in the war. So when Max shows up at the Hubermann’s door, one of his first question to Hans is whether he still plays the accordion. Hans feels that the only way he can repay Erik is by helping Max to hide from the Nazis.

Max and Liesel become very good friends. They have much in common, their love for reading, for writing, for fighting. They both suffer from nightmares. While Liesel’s grief is not that complicated, she must live with her mother’s choices. Max must live with his own. 

The power of words

Words and books hold tremendous value in ‘The Book Thief’. Various examples of how words connect people turn up throughout the novel. Learning the alphabets and creating words is how Liesel and Hans developed their deep bond. Liesel describing the outside weather to Max is what established the bond of friendship between them. The best gift Max gives Liesel is “The Word Shaker”, a story he writes for her. In it, he tells her that words are the strongest force there is, indicated by the fact the Hitler used the power of words to take over the world. The story narrates how Liesel uses her words to create a refuge for herself in the midst of Nazism, and how Max was able to find shelter in her words as well.

The Duality of Humans

Everything in Nazi Germany is upside down. Sounds are seen, visions are tasted, death has a heart, winners lose, and the chance you got for survival is maybe in a concentration camp. 

The book shows a varying amount of people’s kindness and cruelty. There were small acts of kindness like Ilsa Hermann inviting Liesel to her library and Rudy giving his teddy bear to the dying pilot. The more dramatic act of kindness was Hubermann’s hiding and caring for Max, making him feel like a part of their family. Meanwhile, the concentration camps lingering unseen in the background is the most extreme example of cruelty. 

Liesel and her Books

Liesel developed from a powerless girl to a more mature person in due course of the book. Her first encounter with books comes at her brother’s funeral, where she steals a book but is unable to read it and feels powerless at the time. But when Hans teaches her how to read and write, she gains power over the books, and her character also develops. This development is highlighted by her friendship with Max. She began reading to him as a way to comfort him. Eventually, books became a shelter for Liesel, a way to feel in control. Max sums up Liesel’s use of books as a refuge in the story, ‘The Word Shaker’. Liesel began reading to people to give them some comfort when they were all trapped in the bomb shelter during the airstrikes. 

In the end, it’s her book, that in a way saved her life when she was working on it in the basement when the bombs fell on Himmel Street. 

“The Book Thief” gives us hope. Hope in the form of Liesel, who grows into a wonderful and generous person despite the sufferings all around her, who becomes a human even Death loves.

This is a kind of book that can be life-changing. It is unsettling and unsentimental, yet poetic. It’s like a tragedy that runs through the reader’s mind like a black-and-white movie. But even then  “The Book Thief” manages to offer us a believable hard-won hope.

Some Heart Touching Quotes

“The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.”

“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”

“It kills me sometimes, how people die.”

“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.”

“Even death has a heart.”

“If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter. ”

“She was saying goodbye and she didn’t even know it.”

“A small fact:You are going to die….does this worry you?”

“I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.”

“Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it. He was afraid of what might come leaking out.”

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.”

“One was a book thief. The other stole the sky.”

“Together, they would watch everything that was so carefully planned collapse, and they would smile at the beauty of destruction.”

inferno

Did you ever watch Avengers: Infinity War and deep down felt that maybe Thanos was right? Maybe he was the one saving the world and not the avengers? Maybe what he did was for the best of all humanity? 

If yes, then you might get the same feeling while reading “Inferno” by Dan Brown.

“Inferno” can be seen as a thriller, engaging readers in exiting pursuits and implausible escapes, employing a mixture of cultural history and suspense which has become the author’s trademark, and involving a number of stock characters: a genius scientist, a number of intriguing and intimidating women, and Robert Langdon.

Inferno begins with Robert Langdon, a celebrated Harvard professor of art and symbology, who wakes up in a hospital in Florence, with little recollection of what has happened to him. There, he escapes an assassination attempt with the help of his doctor, Sienna Brooks. Soon Robert realizes that some mysterious people are trying to kill him, including his own government, who probably wants him dead. He also finds a cylinder with a biohazard sign in his jacket. The cylinder was fitted with a hi-tech projector displaying a modified version of Map of Hell which was inspired by Dante’s Inferno. 

In his attempts to decipher the riddles, Langdon comes to know of a potential plague threat by the genius scientist Bertrand Zobrist, who believes the human species will come to an end in a century due to ever-increasing population. Zobrist firmly believes that the only solution to this problem is is the human population is reduced to one-third by some drastic measures. After WHO chief, Elizabeth Sinskey, refuses to listen to him, Zobrist decides to take matters in his own hands. He hires a secretive group, The Consortium, to hide him from the world for a year. Zobrist builds a deadly airborne virus that would infect everybody on the planet within a week. The virus being developed by the Zobrist was assumed to be a ‘death doctor’ of sorts, which will cut the world population to four billion. 

However, the vector virus turnouts to randomly activates to employ DNA changes to cause sterility in one-third of humans. 

Ironically, one of the more compelling mysteries in “Inferno” doesn’t have to do with art history, but with the science future, with very real questions about the population explosion and humanity’s responsibility for the earth. Questions like ‘What are virologists more worried about, emerging diseases or manufactured ones’?

Inferno uses literary techniques to probe and outline some of the tensions and paradoxes of virology, thus providing a window into social and cultural dimensions of biomedical research. The story churns out surprise after surprise and you keep on guessing who the real culprit is.   

One of the most interesting things about the novel is the different lights under which we view Zobrist:

Zobrist the scientific expert: an internationally renowned biochemist. 

Zobrist the psychopath: a bioterrorist.

Zobrist the visionary: a representative on the transhumanist philosophy of the future. 

Personally, I like to view Zobrist as a scientific expert and a visionary. Because I am a fan of the truth, even if it’s hard to accept. 

Because even though the WHO boss agrees that the population growth needs to be checked, the only thing they do to contain population is handing out free condoms in Africa which ends up in “landfills overflowing with unused condoms” which only cause environmental problems. 

We humans always tend to overlook the uncomfortable reality of the world will become in another twenty-something year if the population continues to grow at the current rate. Why? Because our mind negates things which causes too much stress for the brain to handle, it’s called Denial. 

“Denial is a critical part of the human coping mechanism. Without it, we would all wake up terrified every morning about all the ways we could die. Instead, our minds block out our existential fears by focusing on stresses we can handle—like getting to work on time or paying our taxes.” – Robert Langdon, Inferno. 

But just because the human mind can’t imagine something from happening, doesn’t mean it won’t. “There comes a moment in history when ignorance is no longer a forgivable offense… a moment when only wisdom has the power to absolve. – Bertrand Zobrist”

online classes AMID Pandemic

COVID-19 began in the month of December in 2019 and soon it grew into a pandemic, leading to several losses of lives and locking down of many cities. Social distancing became the key to escape out of this problem. But, with this solution came other problems. We are able to follow social distancing by keeping us locked in our houses but this stopped students’ education too. But we can’t just stop everything due to this COVID thing. We need to find an effective solution to continue the education of students. We need to continue the functioning of schools and colleges.

Online Classes

In the times of the internet, the one and the only solution are online classes. The online way to share knowledge and information now is the internet. It has proved to be a real miracle these days, connecting millions and making information access fast and easy. Be it school, college, tuition, or coaching classes, knowledge is now being delivered to students who are sitting at their home and can learn things sitting there only. Students now need a mobile or desktop and fast internet connection to attend their online classes and learn things. It is not possible for a pandemic to stop students from learning.

How it is a different experience?

This way of learning is totally new to everyone, be it students, be it teachers or be it parents. We were already involved in some small ways of e-learning but a complete shift towards this type of mode is  something new and challenging to everyone. Teachers are continuously involved in finding new ways to make e-learning more interactive and interesting for students. They are continuously evolving their way of teaching and trying to give them a class-type of feeling. Teachers are also learning to adapt with new softwares and explore things. Students are learning how to deal with online homework submissions, doubt-sessions and examinations. But, the problem is that the medium of interaction is always an electronic device. Hence, students are subjected to fatigue and mental stress. They seem irritated and develop body pain sitting still at a particular position holding their phones or laptops. Students are also developing stress on eyes. It is quite difficult for them to adjust with all of these. It seems that this way of teaching costs their health, both mental and physical. Besides this, internet is not available to all the areas of the country and to all the students. Poor students can’t afford high speed data. This method of teaching, is thus, a barrier between poor students and education. It is a harsh truth that they are left behind. We need to work together towards this to make education available to these students also.

Intellectual Property Rights

What are intellectual Properties?

These are the things that emerge out of human creativity. These are the creation of the mind. Inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce fall under this. Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications. Whereas, literary works (such as novels, poems, and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs, and sculptures) and architectural design are covered by copyright.

The associated rights:

Intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.

Types:

  1. Patents – A patent is an exclusive right granted by law to applicants/assignees to make use of and exploit their inventions for a limited period of time. The patent holder has the legal right to exclude others from commercially exploiting his invention for the duration of this period. In return for exclusive rights, the applicant is obliged to disclose the invention to the public in a manner that enables others, skilled in the art, to replicate the invention. A Patent Owner has every right to commercialize his/her/its patent, including buying and selling the patent or granting a license to the invention to any third party under mutually agreed terms. Patents are valid for 20 years from the date of filing an application, subject to an annual renewal fee.
  2. Trademarks – Trademarks are another familiar type of intellectual property rights protection.  A trademark is a distinctive sign which allows consumers to easily identify the particular goods or services that a company provides. Some examples include McDonald’s golden arch, the Facebook logo, and so on. A trademark can come in the form of text, a phrase, symbol, sound, smell, and/or color scheme. Unlike patents, a trademark can protect a set or class of products or services, instead of just one product or process. 
  3. Copyrights – Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of original work, including the right to copy, distribute, and adapt the work. Copyright lasts for a certain time period after which the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright gives protection for the expression of an idea and not for the idea itself. Copyright ensures certain minimum safeguards of the rights of authors over their creations, thereby protecting and rewarding creativity. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to sell, publish, and/or reproduce any literary, musical, dramatic, artistic, or architectural work created by the author.
  4. Trade secrets – Trade secrets are the secrets of a business. They are proprietary systems, formulas, strategies, or other information that is confidential and is not meant for unauthorized commercial use by others. This is a critical form of protection that can help businesses to gain a competitive advantage. 

Why Are Intellectual Property Rights Important?

  1. Intellectual Property Creates and Supports High-Paying Jobs
  2. Strong and Enforced Intellectual Property Rights Protect Consumers and Families
  3. Intellectual Property Drives Economic Growth and Competitiveness
  4. Intellectual Property Rights Encourage Innovation and Reward Entrepreneurs
  5. Intellectual Property Helps Generate Breakthrough Solutions to Global Challenges

Maybe we all were ‘the same’

We have often heard the saying, “Everyone is unique”. But let’s try to question this. Is this really true? Okay, very much debatable! But, let’s proceed with it slowly.

We grow up in a society where we face comparison knowingly or unknowingly. No one can escape the trap of comparison. Comparison with a second person for grades, for projects, for skills, for the job, for salary, and whatnot. But, then we decide, or let’s say realize that this is not the correct way we are seeing things. We now understand that each of us is unique. Yes, it is true to some extent. We are unique in the way we think, in the way we perceive a situation, the talent we have, the skills we acquire, and the level of our creativity. But, this uniqueness is not out of birth, it is developed.

When we say each of us is different, we start imagining a situation, where we all have everything different. We think that the kind of situations we are in is less likely to be experienced by others or maybe, at least not at that point in time. Sometimes, we come across some difficult situations and we are stuck, we might feel low and might feel that we are the one who is stuck here, there are people out there with a very smooth and happy life with no difficult situation arising in their life. But, the thing is that life offers the same set of problems in each one’s life and the no. of problems with the same difficulty level is also the same. We all experience ‘the same‘. We all come across similar situations in our lives and then label them as “good” or “bad” according to our personal opinion. Now, we call them, good or bad experiences and then count the number of bad experiences we had, to classify our lives as a ‘happy life’ or ‘struggling life’.

To better understand, think of life as a game. We all are players of the same game. Initially, we don’t know whether we will find the game interesting or not but, we all need to start playing. Then, we proceed with playing the game. We all come across different levels of the game in order of increasing difficulty. Some are playing the game with great enthusiasm and interest, collecting a lot of gems, health/lives, and rewards, which will be helpful for them in coming levels. While some are going at the same pace with quite low enthusiasm, hardly collecting gems and lives, or they are stuck at a particular level. Those who have collected rewards and lives can now use these in the difficult levels of the game too, to easily clear that level. But, those who were not able to collect rewards are stuck there watching their fellow reaching higher levels. Some of those in the lower levels of the game can again try the previous levels and collect gems, learn the strategy, and move forward, while some of them are tired and can’t play the game more and they quit. This is how the game goes on.

So, we all are playing the same game. We all come across the same situations and the same difficulties. The thought that we are the one coming across the difficulties of life arises because we don’t have enough knowledge of others’ lives. We only see their lives from outside. We can say we know the points of each player in the game (it is there on the scoreboard), but what we actually don’t is the details, i.e. how much gems, lives, and rewards each of them have collected. We all started from the same point and proceeded along the same direction but eventually end up getting different results. The gems, lives, and rewards that we collected on our way and the attempt we made for it kept us making different from each other. So, if you look at those who reached the final level, they may have different skills and talents because of the way in which they proceeded but they have similar perceptions.

To Jyotiba, from Savitribai Phule: These aren’t love letters, but tell you what love is all about,,In memory of this remarkable WOMAN… 🙌

To Jyotiba, from Savitribai Phule: These aren’t love letters, but tell you what love is all about,,In memory of this remarkable woman,

here are letters that Savitribai Phule wrote to her life partner, Jyotiba – her comrade-in-arms in the struggle for the emancipation of India’s disenfranchised people.Below are translations from the original Marathi,The first letter, written in 1856, speaks about the core issue: education and its transformative possibilities in a society where learning had for centuries been the monopoly of the Brahmins, who, in turn, used this exclusive privilege to enclave, demoralise and oppress. Away at her parental home to recuperate from an illness, Savitri describes in the letter a conversation with her brother, who is uncomfortable with the couple’s radicalism.October 1856The Embodiment of Truth, My Lord Jyotiba,Savitri salutes you!After so many vicissitudes, now it seems my health has been fully restored. My brother worked so hard and nursed me so well through my sickness. His service and devotion shows how loving he really is! I will come to Pune as soon as I get perfectly well. Please do not worry about me. I know my absence causes Fatima so much trouble but I am sure she will understand and won’t grumble.As we were talking one day, my brother said, “You and your husband have rightly been excommunicated because both of you serve the untouchables (Mahars and Mangs). The untouchables are fallen people and by helping them you are bringing a bad name to our family. That is why, I tell you to behave according to the customs of our caste and obey the dictates of the Brahmans.” Mother was so disturbed by this brash talk of my brother.Though my brother is a good soul he is extremely narrow-minded and so he did not hesitate to bitterly criticize and reproach us. My mother did not reprimand him but tried instead to bring him to his senses, “God has given you a beautiful tongue but it is no good to misuse it so!” I defended our social work and tried to dispel his misgivings. I told him, “Brother, your mind is narrow, and the Brahmans’ teaching has made it worse. Animals like goats and cows are not untouchable for you, you lovingly touch them. You catch poisonous snakes on the day of the snake-festival and feed them milk. But you consider Mahars and Mangs, who are as human as you and I, untouchables. Can you give me any reason for this? When the Brahmans perform their religious duties in their holy clothes, they consider you also impure and untouchable, they are afraid that your touch will pollute them. They don’t treat you differently than the Mahars.”When my brother heard this, he turned red in the face, but then he asked me, “Why do you teach those Mahars and Mangs? People abuse you because you teach the untouchables. I cannot bear it when people abuse and create trouble for you for doing that. I cannot tolerate such insults.” I told him what the (teaching of) English had been doing for the people. I said, “The lack of learning is nothing but gross bestiality. It is through the acquisition of knowledge that (he) loses his lower status and achieves the higher one. My husband is a god-like man. He is beyond comparison in this world, nobody can equal him. He thinks the Untouchables must learn and attain freedom. He confronts the Brahmans and fights with them to ensure Teaching and Learning for the Untouchables because he believes that they are human beings like other and they should live as dignified humans. For this they must be educated. I also teach them for the same reason. What is wrong with that? Yes, we both teach girls, women, Mangs and Mahars. The Brahmans are upset because they believe this will create problems for them. That is why they oppose us and chant the mantra that it is against our religion. They revile and castigate us and poison the minds of even good people like you.”“You surely remember that the British Government had organised a function to honour my husband for his great work. His felicitation caused these vile people much heartburn. Let me tell you that my husband does not merely invoke God’s name and participate in pilgrimages like you. He is actually doing God’s own work. And I assist him in that. I enjoy doing this work. I get immeasurable joy by doing such service. Moreover, it also shows the heights and horizons to which a human being can reach out.”Mother and brother were listening to me intently. My brother finally came around, repented for what he had said and asked for forgiveness. Mother said, “Savitri, your tongue must be speaking God’s own words. We are blessed by your words of wisdom.” Such appreciation from my mother and brother gladdened my heart. From this you can imagine that there are many idiots here, as in Pune, who poison people’s minds and spread canards against us. But why should we fear them and leave this noble cause that we have undertaken? It would be better to engage with the work instead. We shall overcome and success will be ours in the future. The future belongs to us.What more could I write?With humble regards,Yours,Savitri1868The second letter is about a great social taboo – a love affair between a Brahman boy and an Untouchable girl; the cruel behaviour of the “enraged” villagers and how Savitribai stepped in. This intervention saves the lives of the lovers and she sends them away to the safety and caring support of her husband, Jyotiba. With the malevolent reality of honour killings in the India of today and the hate-driven propaganda around “love jihad”, this letter is ever so relevant today.29 August 1868Naigaon, Peta KhandalaSataraThe Embodiment of Truth, My Lord Jotiba,Savitri salutes you!I received your letter. We are fine here. I will come by the fifth of next month. Do not worry on this count. Meanwhile, a strange thing happened here. The story goes like this. One Ganesh, a Brahman, would go around villages, performing religious rites and telling people their fortunes. This was his bread and butter. Ganesh and a teenage girl named Sharja who is from the Mahar (untouchable) community fell in love. She was six months pregnant when people came to know about this affair. The enraged people caught them, and paraded them through the village, threatening to bump them off.I came to know about their murderous plan. I rushed to the spot and scared them away, pointing out the grave consequences of killing the lovers under the British law. They changed their mind after listening to me.Sadubhau angrily said that the wily Brahman boy and the untouchable girl should leave the village. Both the victims agreed to this. My intervention saved the couple who gratefully fell at my feet and started crying. Somehow I consoled and pacified them. Now I am sending both of them to you. What else to write?YoursSavitri1877The last letter, written in 1877, is a heart-rending account of a famine that devastated western Maharashtra. People and animals were dying. Savitri and other Satyashodhak volunteers were doing their best to help. The letter brings out an intrepid Savitri leading a team of dedicated Satyashodhaks striving to overcome a further exacerbation of the tragedy as moneylenders’ trying to benefit. She meets the local district administration. The letter ends on a poignant note where Savitribai reiterates her total commitment to her humanitarian work pioneered by the Phules.20 April, 1877Otur, JunnerThe Embodiment of Truth, My Lord Jyotiba,Savitri salutes you!The year 1876 has gone, but the famine has not – it stays in most horrendous forms here. The people are dying. The animals are dying, falling on the ground. There is severe scarcity of food. No fodder for animals. The people are forced to leave their villages. Some are selling their children, their young girls, and leaving the villages. Rivers, brooks and tanks have completely dried up – no water to drink. Trees are dying – no leaves on trees. Barren land is cracked everywhere. The sun is scorching – blistering. The people crying for food and water are falling on the ground to die. Some are eating poisonous fruits, and drinking their own urine to quench their thirst. They cry for food and drink, and then they die.Our Satyashodhak volunteers have formed committees to provide food and other life-saving material to the people in need. They have formed relief squads.Brother Kondaj and his wife Umabai are taking good care of me. Otur’s Shastri, Ganapati Sakharan, Dumbare Patil, and others are planning to visit you. It would be better if you come from Satara to Otur and then go to Ahmednagar.You may remember RB Krishnaji Pant and Laxman Shastri. They travelled with me to the affected area and gave some monetary help to the victims.The moneylenders are viciously exploiting the situation. Bad things are taking place as a result of this famine. Riots are breaking out. The Collector heard of this and came to ease the situation. He deployed the white police officers, and tried to bring the situation under control. Fifty Satyasholdhaks were rounded up. The Collector invited me for a talk. I asked the Collector why the good volunteers had been framed with false charges and arrested without any rhyme or reason. I asked him to release them immediately. The Collector was quite decent and unbiased. He shouted at the white soldiers, “Do the Patil farmers rob? Set them free.” The Collector was moved by the people’s plights. He immediately sent four bullock cartloads of (jowar) food.You have started the benevolent and welfare work for the poor and the needy. I also want to carry my share of the responsibility. I assure you I will always help you. I wish the godly work will be helped by more people.I do not want to write more.

Yours,

Savitri

Top 5 books to read

There are times when you need an escape from your life and your time frame. Books are the best escape, the best time travel and the best indulgence. The world right now is going through a lot, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is the toughest time for the humanity. From being on the verge of several wars, burning forests and an almost wrecking virus, there are times when you need to get away. 

Here’s a list of top 5 books you should read—

  1. The Bell Jar

One of the most beautifully written novels, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath emerges as an absolute get-lost-into novel. The stories about confinement and trauma are shocking, the narrative of this book is so indulging that you fall for it being real and forget what’s outside.

2. Looking for Alaska

A young adult fiction, John Green’s books never disappoint you. The descriptive nature of the book portrays a real film in your mind. The book is hard to leave and harder to get over with. You just keep falling in love with it every day.

3. Mrs. Dalloway

Considered as one of the best works of Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway is a book about a woman in the post-war days in Britain. It covers the day-long schedule in the life of a woman. The realisation of time and society that the book leaves you with is incredible. 

4. War and Peace

Another classic novel by Leo Tolstoy, covers the Russia’s days with Napoleon. It is amazing to read how ordinary people deal with the extraordinary conditions they encounter in their daily lives due to the war. It is worth reading as it teaches how people dealt during a wartime, when the the society was rapidly changing. The book is a thick-read but it is worth the time.

5. The Kite-Runner

The kite-runner by Khaled is a story about a young boy Amir and his friend Hassan. 

The story is based in Afghanistan, a war-torn and landlocked country in Asia. The kite-fight tournaments, the friendship and the betrayal will have all of your heart.

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Labourers and lockdown

Stained by hunger,

The splash of virus dried out to an insignificant dot on their white khadi

They can’t have more, their stomach is full— full of hunger

Their bodies are not driven by food,

Their legs tread hearing stomach’s rumble

The people crossed gutters, jumped over broken roads

The pits in the broken road are now cemented, 

Cemented by starvation,

Cemented by hopes,

Cemented by slippers that have lost the feet on which they were worn.

They who went out in the search of bread have lost their breaths

Their breathless bodies demand an answer,

An answer for their hunger

An answer for their treads,

And answer for which they had lost their breaths.

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Box of rosEs

She is a box of roses

Wrapped in coffee stained newspapers

That you press under cups

Every time they sail with the wind

To hide the stories of abuse they print.

Every word your mouth exhales is capsuled in hate.

That fill her pockets so heavily

That she drowned into nothingness.

She looks at the stars and wishes them to consume her

She looks at her reflection and is surrounded by

Filters to filter out 

what they reject to call beauty.

Those crystals of herself, strained and censored

Dangle like yellow autumn leaves separating from a tree

That descend to the ground, 

dusted with self doubt. 

But when the night shines

and the piercing city lights are dim,

I will show you the brightness you carry within.

Reach out to me on instagram @ekanika_shah

The “RATS” Feast😂

story by -Rabindranath Tagore-

It is very unfair, we will not study under a new teacher,” the boys said.

The new teacher, who is arriving, has the name Kalikumar Tarkalankar. Even though the boys had not seen him yet, they had nicknamed the teacher as “Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli”, a ridiculous translation of the teacher’s name.

The vacations had ended and the boys were returning back to school from their homes in a train. Among them was a jolly fellow who had composed a poem entitled “The Black Pumpkin’s sacrifice” and the boys were reciting the poem at the top of their voice. Just then, when the train stopped at the Adkhola station, an old man entered their coach. With him was his sleeping bag all folded up, few pots that were closed at their mouths by pieces of cloth, a tin trunk and few bundles. One bully-type boy, who was called Bichkun by the others, roared, “There is no place here, old man. Get into another coach.”

The old man said, “There is a huge rush and there is no place elsewhere. I will adjust myself in this corner and will not cause you any trouble.” So saying, the old man vacated the seat among the boys and sat down after spreading his sleeping bag on the floor in a corner.

He asked the boys, “Where are all of you going, and why?”

Bichkun promptly replied that they were going for a “shraddha (a religious rite performed after the death of a person)”.

“Whose shraddha?” the old man wanted to know.

Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli’s, he heard in reply.

The boys once again chanted at the top of their voice, “Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli, we will show you your place.”

The train halted at Asansol and the old man alighted to bathe at the station. When he returned after taking a bath, Bichkun cautioned him, “Do not remain in this coach, mister.”

“Do tell me why,” the old man requested to know.

“There are a lot of rats here,” was the answer.

“Rats! What is all this talk of rats?”

“Just see what the rats have done after removing the covers of your pots.”

The gentleman saw that the pots that had contained sweets and other eatables, were absolutely empty.

“The rats even scurried away carrying away one of your bundles,” Bichkun said. The bundle had contained five or six luscious mangoes from the old man’s own garden.

The gentlemen laughed and remarked that the rats must indeed have been very hungry.

Bichkun said rats are like that; they eat even if they are not hungry.

The other boys joined in the fun and laughed out aloud. “Yes mister, had there been more eatables, they would have finished that too,” they said.

The gentleman said he had made a mistake. “Had I known there would be so many rats traveling together in the train, I would have brought more good things to eat,” he said.

The boys were disappointed that the old man was not angry at their prank. It would have been fun if he had lost his temper.

The train came to halt at the Bardhaman station. It will stop for an hour and the passengers have to board another train for their onward journey.

The gentleman said, “Boys, I will not trouble you any more. I will find a seat for myself in a separate coach.”

“No, no,” the boys cried out in unison, “you must complete the rest of the journey with us. If you have anything left in the pots, we will guard them and nothing will go missing this time”.

“Alright boys, you get into the train. I will join you in a moment,” the gentleman said.

The boys jumped into the connecting train. After some time, a confectioner approached their coach pushing his cart and halted by the window. Along came the gentleman too. He handed over a packet of sweets to each of the boys and said, “This time, the rats will not face any impediments in their feast.” The boys jumped in joy. Shortly, a mango seller also came by and delicious mangoes were passed around.

“Where are you going and for what purpose?” the boys demanded to know.

He said, “I am going in search of employment. I will get down wherever I find work.”

“What sort of work do you do?” the boys demanded to know again.

“I am a teacher. I teach Sanskrit,” the gentleman replied.

The boys clapped their hands in delight and said, “Then, you must come to our school.”

“Why will your school employ me?” he asked.

“The school will have to employ you; we will not allow Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli to enter the school premises under any circumstance,” the boys cried out in unison.

“You have put me in a dilemma. What if the school secretary takes a dislike for me?” the old man wanted to know.

He has to like you – else, all of us will leave school and go away, they said.

“Okay boys, then take me to your school.”

The train came to a halt at their destination. The school secretary was himself present at the station. On seeing the old man, he said, “Come, come, come Tarkalankar Sir. Your room has been readied and spruced up.” The secretary then bowed and touched the old man’s feet in reverence.