Posts tagged ‘travel’

February 19, 2011

February Thoughts from South Asia

by thiszine



Prof P. Lal, one of the most loveable Indian Publishers, closes his final book

I won’t talk about the literary festivals that are proliferating in India these days like wildfire (but don’t take me as someone who is averse to them). Rather, with esteemed reverence I would like to remember one of the India’s greatest publishers and writers, Prof P. Lal, who passed away recently. His ‘Writer’s Workshop’, during the five decades plus of its existence, published many famous names of the present times: Vikram Seth, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande and Raja Rao, to name a few.


I got to know about Prof P. Lal about four years ago and spoke with him on a few occasions. This was the time when I was looking for a suitable publisher for my novel. I had spoken to about a dozen editors and publishing house receptionists or so, and the only one who spoke to me with excitement was Prof Lal. Not just that, he also gave me a few words of encouragement, something that did a lot to my confidence and for which I am forever indebted.

But sadly, I couldn’t publish with Writer’s Workshop (I repent it to this day). And the only reason I didn’t publish my first title with him was due to the simple fact that WW didn’t have a distribution setup. Mr. Lal’s love for books was so deep-routed and his idea of books so unique that he hand-bound the books himself in lovely and colorful Indian sarees (the traditional clothing of Indian women) cloth pieces from his house at Kolkata, in north east India, and the book numbers were kept as low as 100, something like a limited edition.

During one of our recent conversations, I requested him to accept a small donation from me for the Writer’s Workshop, which his website announced they needed. I was honored because, not only did he accept my offer, but he also made it a point to talk about my small gesture on WW’s website. It is still there now. Aside from this, there was a poetry collection I had been working on, too, about which I told him and he asked me to send it for consideration. But since it wasn’t fully ready, I couldn’t send it. Now, perhaps, I never will. Worse, no one as good might ever be willing to see it.


A father at 94

Well, this got me thinking, I mean, how is it possible to father a child that is biologically one’s own at 94?

But it has happened right here in India! The man who achieved this feat asserted, according to a national daily, that it’s due to the food he had consumed when young: three liters of Buffalo milk, half a kilo of almonds and half a kilo of ghee (melted, clarified butter) everyday. It’s a magic formula to remain virile until the final breath, if you go by his theory. Food for thought for scientists, I guess.

In a race to unsettle the previous record holder, another Indian man who fathered a child at 90, this nonagenarian farmer is not just happy, he is bubbling with newly attained fatherhood and posing for pictures in his village in India’s northwest. He has called this unique achievement, ‘The God’s gift’. His wife is in her mid-fifties.

An important question: Is it not the responsibility of a parent to consider, before bearing a child, if he or she has enough residual time to bring up the child properly? But at 94 he can hardly be blamed to worry about such issues. And as Hugh Hefner, CEO of Playboy enterprises, recently said during his engagement to a Playboy model 60 years younger, ‘When you’re in love, age is just a number.’ Let’s watch out: he’s 84.


When it’s for the family, it pays to fight the weather

With the onset of a particularly aggressive winter this year, it hurt many of us to see so many people stuck at the airports all over Europe and America, spending Christmas and other holidays sprawled on hard benches or floors. So the question is: is it really worthwhile for you to jettison your travel plans, or the possibility of being with your loved ones, for the fear that the weather may play a spoil sport?

I would like to share what happened to me when I was confronted with the option and the opportunity came for me to visit my family at Delhi, nearly three thousand kilometers from where I am stationed. The newspaper had reported diversion of 76 flights during the last few days of December yet I grabbed the opportunity to visit my family with both hands and booked myself a flight for the first of January. And as luck would have it, the aircraft arrived in the afternoon on a clear day and on time. So you see, it does pay to fight the weather.

September 29, 2010

THIS reads: Judge a Book by Its Cover

by thiszine


I’ve wrestled with the notion of the e-reader for the past few years. I admit, at first I was like, No. Way. No friggin’ way. Nope. No. No, no, NO! It seemed impossible to compare a sterile flat screen with the physical book that has a cover announcing what it is and is filled with pages that have a feel and a smell. Trading off a book for a device just wasn’t possible for me in the early days of the e-reader.

Yet I understand this amazing modern age. I’ve reconciled uneasily with how fast life is changing bacause it’s work to keep up. I understand if you can’t keep up with what’s new, you’re old school but in a really uncool, awkward way. If you can’t keep up you miss out.

My feelings about the e-reader changed when I saw my young son lugging a backpack filled with textbooks older than he is. Now there’s a good reason for an e-reader. Text books, especially college text books, would be perfect in an electronic format because they can be updated quickly, subjects can be linked easily for further references and the dire need for those ridiculous backpacks with wheels will hopefully go away. Forever.

Environmentally? Sure! Let’s save the trees! I see the upside to keeping forests intact although honestly, I give little thought to the trees when I am immersed in a great book.

I have seen people with the e-reader. It doesn’t really grab me like, Oh my gosh there’s an e-reader! It’s just another electronic gadget that commands its owner’s attention so completely that those people and things surrounding him or her cease to exist.



As far as feeling that books are going to fall before the almighty e-reader the way VHS fell to DVD, I am no longer frought with despair. The birth of the e-reader is a response to what the public wants but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the book. The e-reader has its down-sides: it needs to be plugged in to work. You can’t read it in the tub. It’s very expensive to leave at the airport.

For me, the worst thing about the e-reader is probably what makes it one of the best things: it can hold a huge number of books. Imagine, all my favorite books in one little gadget.

My favorite books are often my traveling companions. They’ve ridden with me on trains, buses, planes and smokey cars of people I barely knew. They’ve kept me company in lobbies, waiting rooms, bars, bathrooms and hallways waiting for the bathroom.

My books haven’t just kept me company, they’ve helped me find friends. I’ve met like-minded individuals who light up with, Oh, I love that book! after glancing at the the title. I’ve met equally shy people who, like me, never just say Hi but venture with a So how do you like that book? I’ve even had fantastic, heated debates with a complete stranger about the importance of Kerouac’s On the Road. How can an e-reader inspire that exchange?

My favorites books are beat-up and dog-eared with underlined passages. Occasionally there are some highlighted paragraphs and most are filled with little scribbles in the margins. All the war wounds of my books are testimony to their travel with me and my travels and travails into them. How could an electronic device compare to the life my books lead?

While feeling less threatened by the electronic reader, I admit I do despair for the future of books in future generations. These are the people who will grow up with electronic devices as the norm and might look at books as I look at a phone with a rotary dial. In the path of progress some things are, unfortunately, lost along the way.

Here are some of my books that have sparked the best friendships, conversations and insights from strangers:

by Delacorta. A French novel and not a great translation, it was made into a much better movie. I took this on a bus from Boston to NYC and sat next to a musician who loved the soundtrack from the movie. We talked for the entire trip to New York.


ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac. This was the book that lead to a shouting argument on a train from Salem to Boston. It was ridiculous!

I brought the book on the train to look pretentious but the whole idea of the Beat generation, the characters and ideals, were a joke to me. Maybe I just had a hangover. Maybe the poor guy who wanted praise Kerouac reminded me of my blissed-out college professor. Whatever it was, I ended up in Boston being called an uptight, closed-minded hypocrite. The memory still makes me laugh – it’s the best part of the book for me.


THE BASKETBALL DIARIES by Jim Carroll is a great collection of poems that better defines a certain era. It is edgy and sharp. I carried this on the bus to and from work in Worcester, MA and had developed an odd group of friends who had read it. We met often for coffee and discussions after work. It takes me back to such a great time in my life.

My books are interlaced with memories, times and places that help define who I am. Could I ever get that with an e-reader?