I am reading Terry Eagleton’s How to Read Literature currently. I rather pride myself on having ingeniously downloaded it for free from the Yale University website. It is exceedingly clever, witty and quite easy to read. This is my first book regarding anything related to literary analysis, and I am enjoying it.

I am surprised by how much layers of meaning you can extract from a sentence that seems quite clear. Or how much the notions of character have changed with the times. The book has given me a peek into several great pieces of literature, almost all of which I have never heard of; It has also introduced me to poetry, which I rarely touch.

I think I would like to discover new dimensions to texts I thought I knew well; I would like to read about different theories in literature, to be able to tackle questions of the ties between society and texts, to explore how the language used can alter meanings totally. I love reading books, and I think I will also love understanding more about them.

I also read many other books, and reread some books in this vacation (some of them in the study holidays!) Indeed, it is the only worthwhile thing that I managed to do these two months, most of which I slept off.

I started reading Arthur Hailey, and have already finished three of his books. The first one I read was Airport, which was quite good. I liked the way that different elements were mixed together in the plot, and how, at the end all the loose ends were tied up. I spent the whole of a day reading the book, much to the chagrin of everybody at home.

Next, I read Overload, which was about the electricity industry. The idea of the power crisis was explained in good detail, and the story brought to light how vicious the press could be if it wanted, and showed the problem of conflicting interests excellently. It had some interesting elements to it as well. I personally felt that the story could have been much better than Airport, if it had not devoted much space to the amorous affairs of the protagonist.

But Wheels, about the automobile industry, was the best of all. The novel was superb in all its aspects, from the description of racism in Detroit to the designing of cars. I loved how it offered an interesting perspective into all the departments involved in the construction and marketing of cars; I had never spared thought to how much was involved in it. The ending was logical and positive; I appreciate the author for that. I really enjoyed reading the book.

I also read Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel, and it was amazing.  The author had done a good job of tracing the lives of two different characters, in good detail, allowing us a glimpse into their respective personalities, successes and failures, leaving it to the readers to decide whom they liked better. I think the book is so great because it manages to remain coherent and gripping throughout. The language is unassuming and true to the point. I liked William Kane better from the start.

I also read The Final Impression by the same author, and it paled in comparison. It was not a very great story, nor very thrilling, except maybe in the last part. But I am grateful to the book for offering me a peek into what people must have gone through when 9/11 happened.

I read John Grisham’s The Associate, which opened my eyes fully to the insane workload of law firms, where everything that matters is billing. It was a good book, and takes you through the mind of the hero, so that you can understand the paranoia he is feeling. But I liked The Firm and The Confession more, as they were really un put- downable.

I also read The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee, which explores Mahabharat from the viewpoint of Draupadi. It is a great concept, and she has handled it really well. The novel lays bare the female character’s emotions, joys and beliefs. The strength of the book lies in this; it also explores her whimsical and petulant side.  At the end, we sympathize with her for all she has gone through. We question the injustice that was meted out to her, just because the destiny of the world had to be fulfilled. I loved reading the book.

I have noticed that nowadays many young Indian authors are writing new kinds of fiction; they are exploring new arenas and producing some superb pieces. Leelavati by Nandini Bajpai is my comfort read. When I feel extremely lazy or restless, I give it a go. It is a charming and simple love story. Similarly, Right Here Right Now by Nikita Singh is a nice book about teenage life in the backdrop of a girl losing her memory. Life Is What You Make It by Preeti Shenoy, is very insightful regarding bipolar disorder. All these are promising books that I have read before.

I finished reading The  Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen. I gained knowledge about many things, from Tagore to Carvaka philosophy. All his statements and arguments are backed up with solid proof and the language is amazingly lucid and precise. It showed me how academic essays are to be written. His clarity of thought is unmatchable.

I tried reading Foucault’s Pendulum again, and this time, I used a dictionary. I understood it better than last time, but I have just left it for the time being. I also am reading John Banville’s The Sea now. It is a book, where even the mundane appears to have deep emotion inside. It is a pleasure to read simple words which convey so much feeling. But it cannot be read in one go, so I take it little by little.

In the meantime, because Banville and Eagleton felt heavy sometimes, or as I wanted to read some books I had loved again, I reread Three Men in a Boat, The Alchemist’s Secret, Da Vinci Code, parts of King Solomon’s Mines, What Katy did at School and The Contagion.

So I think I have read quite a bit, actually! That’s it for now

India through my eyes

I read a significant number of books in the holidays, but somehow it seems like I can write only about social issues nowadays. Maybe it is because I find this more easy and interesting. Or it maybe due to a less-innocent reason. Like wanting more appreciation and comments!

Firstly, I think we need to talk about the political instability of our country these days. I may tend to concentrate more on Tamil Nadu, what with the politicians here always making it to the breaking news on TV with their calculative opinions which change daily according to the circumstances. But even at the national level, I think not everything is smooth going.

We have this great politics textbook in CBSE, which gives such a good view of democracy and  its advantages, with substantial evidence. I very much believe in true democracy because of that. Whenever we criticize politicians at home, I am able to appreciate it to be the best form of government because it gives us the freedom of speech to express ourselves.

Sometimes, everything seems to have a political undertone which frustrates me. I want to still be able to believe in a world where things are done for their sake, not for politics. I will never cease to wish for a democracy in its true form, to be established in India. As a person of the next generation, I dream of a country where people in power will be free of corruption, will try to understand people’s mind set and will dedicate their life to serve the common masses.

I know that it may be asking too much, as politicians are also just humans, who will make mistakes like us. But I am not expecting everything to change overnight, or for them to be always right. If they are open to change, if they don’t shun from honest interaction with the public, then I am sure people will support them enthusiastically. Together, we can make India a better place to live, can’t we?

Next, is the very important issue of gender equality. The situation now is much better than the olden days. I can choose what I want to study. Most girls today get schooling of some sort. Female foeticide is non existent(at least from what I know). But we are now faced with a much more horrifying reality: Alarmingly frequent cases of physical abuse. Recently, the convicts in the Nirbhaya case where handed a death sentence. People are hailing it as an historic decision. But we can’t afford to rejoice, not with so many more girls waiting for justice.

What is the most infuriating thing is, some people try to justify such barbarous acts. They try to normalize it as part of man’s nature. Worst, they blame the woman, the victim. They say that is the woman’s fault that she wore such clothes, that she was out at an eerie hour,etc,etc. It amazes me that we still manage to live in such a world. Who gave people the right to advise women what to wear and where to go? If they restrict men this way, will the world accept? A person in my school said that these incidents are happening because women do not use their freedom in the right manner. As if freedom is something somebody lent us! It is our birth right as a human being. People need to force their convoluted minds to accept this.

Another thing I would like to focus on are the regularly occurring traffic accidents. I don’t know about other parts of India, but I think they happen everywhere in varying amounts. In the last two months, I have myself seen two. In one, my father told me that the person had blood in his face. Thankfully, I didn’t see it, otherwise I would not have been able to sleep for days. I have been struck by the fact that while I read about this in the news, I feel that it is happening in some faraway place. I feel insulated from it all. But now I am realizing that it is not very far away. It is taking place in front of my eyes. We should not lose some of our brightest minds in this freakish manner.

Lastly, from a student’s perspective, I would like to say a few words on our education system. Things are changing, people are taking up new fields. CBSE and ICSE  offer more flexible curriculae than the state boards, which place more emphasis on rote learning. I don’t support CBSE bringing back 10th boards. The CCE structure gave students the option to use their cultural passions to get a decent grade. I have not done my math exam very well, and I can hope to get a good CGPA only because of CCE evaluation. Taking back this system has given students only one chance to prove their merit. It has turned the wheel back to bookish learning.

I want education to let me pursue my interests, to be enjoyable and to make me independent and responsible. I want to be able to think about things I read. I want to go to school happily everyday. The school I have chosen now offers me all this. I look forward to starting there.