Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE BOOK SELLER




THE BOOK SELLER

I paused before I rang again and waited patiently outside the apartment. It took a good two minutes before the door slowly opened; obviously the person behind was being cautious not wanting to be surprised by an unwelcome guest. Of course the danger of any intruder barging in was out of the question as she stood safe behind a grilled door, an additional reinforcement to keep away pests of a different kind. The look she gave me made me feel that I did belong to the second variety. The opened door did allow the aroma of ‘Sambhar rice’ reach my nostrils and for a moment I forgot the purpose for which I had come; the blistering sun outside, my aching limbs and the rumblings in my stomach had already made me groggy.

The lady of the house, she had to be that for she stared at me with such authority and with a trace of contempt while wiping her hands on a towel slung over her shoulder.

“Yes, who are you and what do you want?” She asked.

“Madam, if you can spare me two minutes of your time I will be grateful” I replied.

“Well man you have already interrupted me in the middle of my cooking. Are you a salesman? If it is Maggie noodles since you want just two minutes of my time, I am not interested. No one in this house likes them anyway.”

“Madam, I am sorry you misunderstood me. I am not a salesman and I do not sell noodles. I am here to talk about a book” I said trying to sound important,

“Oh books! Please I am not interested in any of your encyclopaedias or children books. You see our children have grown up and moved away and only I and my husband live here. We have no need for books”.

“I think this book would interest you and your husband, just have a look at it” I persisted thrusting a copy of my book through the grilled door.  

She looked at the cover without reaching for the book and for a moment looked surprised. “That’s you on the cover. You wrote the book?”

“Yes Madam, I am the author. The book talks about the life of an ordinary man, his dreams, beliefs, aspirations and the transformations that take place in his life during the process of aging. I think your husband will definitely like the book.”

“So you are here to sell me your book, isn’t that your main intention?” she asked.

“In a way yes” I said sheepishly.

“So you are a Salesman after all, you sell books” she said with a smile.

“Yes Madam, by that definition I am a Bookseller. Why don’t you ask your husband to browse through it? I shall leave a copy with you and come back tomorrow. You can buy if you like the book.”

She took the book in her hand and flipped through the pages and in the end said “I am just an ordinary man? What a funny name for a book. I don’t think that we need this book. Ordinary eh! My husband is already that – Ordinary.”

With that she handed back the book to me through the grilled door.

When I got my book published I never thought that I would at last have to resort to climbing stairs, knocking on doors to be met with cold stares, scour the streets in search of gullible victims, learn to take ‘no’ for an answer and ultimately come back with my inventory more or less intact. May be I misunderstood my friend when he said that I needed to raise the sales pitch, I started climbing stairs.

Ever since I started blogging I found that I have turned into some sort of Nostradamus while trying to understand the travails of aspiring authors. In the process all that I had written about the number of likes far exceeding the number of books has come to pass. The initial euphoria accompanying the announcement of the launch of my debut novel has at last waned and all the congratulations and best wishes have now been confined to the recesses my Facebook store.

But it has been an awakening of sorts. The author cannot expect that everyone he knows be it a friend or a relation would ultimately purchase the book, though every one of them in their heart of hearts is genuinely happy for you. The author is in a hurry and the reader is not for he has his own affairs to attend to. I do not exclude myself for though an author, I am also a reader.

But one thing is sure that the writer who is in the process of testing the waters is an Author, Publisher and above all a Bookseller and believe me that the last role is proving to be most difficult.


Friday, November 28, 2014

B00K REVIEW – ‘Do Not Take This World Seriously’ By Kishore R. Kulkarni



B00K REVIEW – ‘Do Not Take This World Seriously’
By Kishore R. Kulkarni

Spirituality is serious stuff and that is what this whole book is about. In the author’s own words he says “I have presented my understanding of spirituality from an ordinary seeker’s perspective. It is not a scholarly treatise. It simply presents the “musings” of a spiritual seeker based on the classical Indian spiritual thinking as epitomised in Shrimad Bhagawad Geeta.” Yes, it is the author’s own understanding and interpretation of The Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures that is spread over twenty chapters, seeking to convey to the reader the essence of Hindu Philosophy through a process of dialogue and introspection. In the prologue itself the author sets the pattern when he says “my idea is not to convince any reader by means of this book to take up spirituality. It is simply a sharing that may have a role to play in some people’s lives, if the divine scheme has it that way.”

Some time back I read Richard Dawkins book ‘The God delusion’ where the entire book is based on the author’s contention that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. Kulkarni asserts that “I strongly believe that there is a divine plan behind this creation, and certainly behind someone getting on to the spiritual path.”

Born into a conservative Brahmin family, it was but natural that Kulkarni imbibed the theistic values of his surroundings grew up as God fearing individual up to his early youth. There were two transformation moments in his life – one in the author’s own words “I may concede that by virtue of my education and profession, I must have changed significantly from a god fearing child and teenager to a “rational intellectual adult”, such as they come in the modern times! So, I never thought I would ever become a serious spiritual seeker” and the second was when he met his spiritual guru when on a trip to Singapore, again in his own words “Those couple of hours somehow left a deep impression on me. Not that she revealed any great fundamental truths or put forth any “convincing” arguments in favour of spiritual pursuit. But something happened to me all the same through that session. Since then, I engaged myself in a little bit of meditation and gradually got more and more interested in spiritual pursuit.” Though he says that he is an ordinary seeker, it is evident that he has engaged himself in a serious study of the Hindu scriptures.

The interesting part however is that the book will indeed appeal to the ordinary seeker as it is for most part in the form of a conversation, a question and answer session between the author and the reader with the author’s own narration and interpretations thrown in to amplify the concept with examples from our own lives thrown in. The twenty chapters cover the entire gamut of questions from the creation of the world, the Creator to the question of ‘Who am I’, of desires and detachment, freewill, destiny and action – the meaning of Vairaagya and the outcome of actions or Karma Yoga, love, forgiveness, faith and non-violence. In the end there is chapter on the significance of the scriptures.

The glossary of Sanskrit terms at the end of the book is a must and the author has compiled it an easy to refer tabular form. Without this the book would have proved unintelligible to the ordinary reader and the others who would see it as an introduction to Hindu spiritual thought.

This is a vast subject and the author Kishore Kulkarni has acknowledged – “The book is organised into two volumes. Language has very serious limitations and when it comes to spiritual terms, two persons may understand them quite differently. That is the reason I have presented up front in Volume 1, my understanding of the various important spiritual terms and concepts, so that the reader can appreciate my philosophy better. Volume 2 presents my ideas about the real spiritual goal and the practice for achieving that goal – what exactly a spiritual seeker should be doing – both in the inner mental realm as also in the external world of action.”

I however felt that the title could have been different for spirituality is a serious matter. All in all a commendable effort for as the author says “After all, it is my strong belief that spirituality is all about transformation of mind through constant contemplation on the matters beyond the physical creation.”


Friday, November 14, 2014

THE FAIRY TALES OF HERMANN HESSE – BOOK REVIEW



THE FAIRY TALES OF HERMANN HESSE – BOOK REVIEW

At the very outset let me confess that I have always been a diehard admirer of the works of Hermann Hesse. Whether it is Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narziss and Goldmund down to his magnum opus ‘The Glass Bead Game’ they have left their imprint and influence on me to this very day. Some time ago I did post here ‘Duality 2 – A Tribute to Hermann Hesse’ to explore the recurring theme of duality that characterises the works of Hermann Hesse, one of the greatest German novelists of the twentieth century. Throughout all of his works one can sense his attempts at bringing about a balance between the two opposing forces of asceticism and the world, so that we reach a better understanding of the world and on towards self-realization.

All that was three decades ago and I thought that I had exhausted all the books written by him at least the significant ones (my ignorance). So it was a revelation and a feeling of elation when I while browsing the books on Goodreads chanced upon the ‘The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse’. Thirty years ago I had last been transported to the magical world of Magister Ludi and ‘The Glass Bead Game’ and ever since I have been searching for that world of Hesse. It was a difficult book but once you plunged into that world there was no turning back.

And so there I was during the last ten days letting in every word of Hesse in this book – his fairy tales, sink into my psyche once again. I knew what to expect – enter once again into his fabulous world of dreams and visions, philosophy and passion. I will quote a portion of the blurb on the back cover of the book which states –

“Full of visionaries and seekers, princesses and wandering poets, his fairy tales speak to the place in our psyche that inspires us with deep spiritual longing; that compels us to leave home and inevitably return; and that harbours the greatest joys and most devastating wounds of our heart.”

Jack Zipes’s wonderful English translation does not ever make you feel that you have missed out on any of Hesse’s original thought process in the original German. In his exhaustive and wonderful Introduction Zipes has this to say –

“To know Hermann Hesse’s fairy tales is to know the trauma, doubts, and dreams of the artist as a young man in Germany at the beginning of a tumultuous century. Like many other European writers, Hesse perceived the events around him – the rapid advance of technology, the rise of materialism, the world wars, the revolutions, and the economic inflations and depressions – as indicative of the decline of Western Civilization. It was through art, especially the fairy tale that Hesse sought to contend with what he perceived to be the sinister threat of science and commercialism.”

Not to be misled by the term ‘Fairy Tale’ which to our understanding has always been signified by ‘And they lived happily ever after’, Hesse’s fairy tales are either tragic or open ended leaving it to us to contemplate and change the conditions that had brought about such a closure.  Hesse uses the fairy tale narrative effectively of blending the world of imagination and symbolism with reality and allowing the reader to go beyond and grasp the essence of living. In the process he weaves a magical world and sometimes takes us back into the world of Harry Haller in the Magic Theatre a place where he experiences the fantasies that exist in his mind in the book ‘Steppenwolf’ or the world of Emil Sinclair in ‘Demian’ whose entire existence can be summarized as a struggle between two worlds: the show world of illusion (related to the Hindu concept of maya) and the real world, the world of spiritual truth accompanied and prompted by his mysterious classmate 'Max Demian', he detaches from and revolts against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances and eventually awakens into a realization of self. In the story ‘If the War Continues’, the protagonist is Emil Sinclair, a writer. One can recall that Hesse wrote ‘Demian’ under the pseudonym of Emil Sinclair.

The book is more like a compendium of all the themes that Hesse covers in his novels and reflections of his own life beliefs and convictions. There is something mystical, magical about the way he weaves these short stories. One can categorize the stories into distinct groups based on the dilemmas encountered by the individual, society and the world at large.

While in the stories ‘The Dwarf’, ‘Shadow Play’, and “Dr.Knoegle’s End’ the sensitive and harmless protagonists are crushed by narrow minded people, in ‘The Poet’, ‘Flute Dream’, ‘Forest Dweller’ and ‘The Painter’ Hesse portrays their realization through a search for attainment of their full potential. Hesse’s pacifism and the search for an utopian order in this world comes out strongly in- ‘A Dream about the Gods’, ‘Strange News from Another Planet’, ‘If the War Continues’, ‘The European’ and ‘The Empire’.
The translator in his Introduction highlights Hesse’s that “Nationalism is the most dangerous force because it can inspire people to obsessively seek power and become caught up in war for war’s sake”.

Each and every one of the twenty two stories in this book have their own appeal as Hesse takes us on a journey through his world of magical, sometimes mystical world of romantic symbolism and idealism.

Jack Zipes the translator sums up his introduction – “Hesse’s best tales are filled with a keen sense of longing for a home that is utopian counterpart to the horrors we continue to witness in our present day and age”.

Now I feel happy that I have completed all of Hesse’s work, or have I? I hope there are some more undiscovered ones,