Caring @ BYOB Party at JustBooks, Sahakarnagar in July 2018 (Part 2)

Image result for Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral EducationImagine a world where Care is the guiding principle and Compassion the moral compass?

This is what Indira spoke about and this set the tone of the entire BYOB Party. She chose a non-fiction that she considers to be her Bible- a book called Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education by Nel Noddings. It’s a difficult book if you don’t understand philosophy. The book talks about the basis of moral action, how altruism can be acquired and how when it comes to caring, the act of caring and the memory of being cared for is crucial. This book is important as it emphasizes the importance of moral sensitivity- an ethics based only on rationale is not the need of the hour.

Indira laid out the basic tenant of Western philosophy that Kant had arrived at, a reasonable stand at the time, that Reason was Supreme and Emotion only clouded one’s Logic. Women were hardly ever given the benefit of the doubt and were seen as creatures who could hardly behave dispassionately. The question is how one can respond to a child without basing her response on the immediacy of the environment. Noddings doesn’t advocate moral relativism; she builds her theory entirely based on care.

“This commitment to care and to define oneself in terms of the capacity to care represent a feminine alternative to Kohlberg’s “stage six” morality. At stage six, the moral thinker transcends particular moral principles by appealing to the highest principle – one that allows a rearrangement of the hierarchy in order to give proper place-value to human love, relief and suffering. But women, as ones-caring, are not so much concerned with the rearrangement of priorities among principles; they are concerned, rather, with maintaining and enhancing caring.”

To explain the idea, Indira mentioned the biblical sacrifice of Abraham, a moral and ethical dilemma. There are many such examples across religions, but could a woman ever hold her child hostage to some supra-ethical maxim? Even if she did, it would be the exception more than the rule.

However, Nodding is by no means denouncing Kant as his theory of ethics stands on solid ground. The conversation moved in various directions. Take the case of mothers who confronted the demons of their terrorist children, the Eichman trial, the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhism and the killing fields of Cambodia. Phew!

Watch this to understand more about Kant and his categorical imperative. If you want a more humane response to ethics, you may like to read a bit about Martha Nussbaum, also known as the philosopher of feelings.

This quote by Kurt Vonnegut is a great way of summarizing this session:

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

More books in Part 3.

 

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on Sep 15, 2018 (Saturday)

RSVP on Meetup OR Register on Eventbrite

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Eventbrite

BYOB Party is back at Pothi.com’s office this time and on a Saturday.

Have you read a book that you are craving to chitchat about with someone? Have a favorite book that you think everyone would love, if only they knew about it? Want to see what others are reading and have interesting conversations beyond weather, traffic, and real estate?

Then come to the BYOB party on September 15 and talk away! Try to avoid a bestseller and if you have a copy, bring it along and read us a passage. All languages are welcome.

There will be refreshment and swags courtesy Worth A Read.

Venue:  #634 (Ground Floor), 5th Main, Indiranagar 2nd Stage · Bangalore

FAQs

So, what really happens at a BYOB Party?

Everyone brings a book and talks about it. Conversations follow and they are good. So are the refreshments!

You can take a look at what happened in some of our earlier parties here:

Do I have to be there for the entire duration of four hours?

We aren’t closing doors or locking you in. But the party is best enjoyed if you are there for the entire duration and listen to people talk about a variety of books. Trust us, you won’t know how time flew.

Do I have to bring anything?

Nothing really. But if you have a copy of the book you want to talk about, you might want to bring it in. Other attendees might want to have a look, or you might want to read a paragraph from it.

I am an author. Can I bring a book written by me?

A good writer should be a voracious reader. It would be preferable if you brought a book you really like written by someone else.

Who are the organizers?

Worth a Read.

Is the event free?

Yes, it is free to attend.

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Shoot an e-mail to jayajha@instascribe.com.

Okay! I am ready to come. What do I do?

Join our meetup groupRSVP, and come over!

If you are not on meetup, you can also Register on Eventbrite.

Ten-thousand Hour Rule and Hot Streak @ BYOB Party at JustBooks, Sahakarnagar in July 2018 (Part 1)

This time we hosted the BYOB Party with JustBooks at the cozy JustBooks library, Sahakarnagar. It was an extraordinarily intense set of discussions that we had.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoor

Image result for outliersSrikanth talked about a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  It’s the age of the non-fiction book, isn’t it? Lots of non-fic books were discussed in this session. Everyone wanted to know how to be successful, a question that Gladwell could provide no self-help magic potion for. He gives you the facts, tells stories and deconstructs myths of success, e.g., people with a high IQ are not necessarily successful. The question came up about what success really can be defined as and what contributed to success.  One theory attributes success to the environment. There are also periods and places in history where success was common, take the 1950’s baby boomer generation. Gladwell lays out the controversial 10,000-hour rule, easier to illustrate with skill-based success stories, e.g, violinists, chess players and plumbers who spend 10,000 hours on their craft are bound to succeed.

We learned many new things. Conversation threw up the broken windows model of policing, first described in 1982 in a seminal article by Wilson and Kelling. Then the Black Swan Theory was discussed.  Watch this one-minute video. Another idea was the Hot streak, a period in a professional’s life that is markedly improved over others. Watch this interesting video analyzing data collected about thousands of professionals’ winning streak moments.  If you trace the large-scale career histories of individual artists, film directors and scientists, you can identify the success from the cost of their paintings, the success of their movies and the number of citations they have received, respectively. One interesting fact that emerges from this analysis is that you can nail the hot streak regardless of age or career, thus drilling a hole in the theory that musicians and mathematicians must be young. Success among scientists also depends on the ‘hotness’ of the field itself.

A book that elicited a great deal of discussion was a non-fiction book about Caring. Let’s talk about this book in the next post.

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party at JustBooks, Sahakarnagar on July 21, 2018 (Saturday)

RSVP on Meetup OR Register on Eventbrite

RSVP on Meetup OR Register on Eventbrite

BYOB Party is back and this time JustBooks Sahakarnagar will be co-hosting it with us.

Have you read a book that you are craving to chitchat about with someone? Have a favorite book that you think everyone would love, if only they knew about it? Want to see what others are reading and have interesting conversations beyond weather, traffic, and real estate?

Then come to the BYOB party on July 21 and talk away! Try to avoid a bestseller and if you have a copy, bring it along and read us a passage. All languages are welcome.

There will be refreshment and swags courtesy Worth A Read.

Venue:  JustBooks, No 30, Above G.K.Vale, Behind Ganesha Temple, 13th Main, CQAL Layout, Sahakarnagar-560092

FAQs

So, what really happens at a BYOB Party?

Everyone brings a book and talks about it. Conversations follow and they are good. So are the refreshments!

You can take a look at what happened in some of our earlier parties here:

Do I have to be there for the entire duration of four hours?

We aren’t closing doors or locking you in. But the party is best enjoyed if you are there for the entire duration and listen to people talk about a variety of books. Trust us, you won’t know how time flew.

Do I have to bring anything?

Nothing really. But if you have a copy of the book you want to talk about, you might want to bring it in. Other attendees might want to have a look, or you might want to read a paragraph from it.

I am an author. Can I bring a book written by me?

A good writer should be a voracious reader. It would be preferable if you brought a book you really like written by someone else.

Who are the organizers?

Worth a Read and JustBooks Sahakarnagar.

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Shoot an e-mail to jayajha@instascribe.com.

Okay! I am ready to come. What do I do?

Join our meetup group, RSVP on Meetup, and come over!

If you are not on meetup, you can also register on Eventbrite.

 

Gender, Identity and Fishermen @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 9)

Image result for shikhandi devdutt amazonBhavish spoke about Shikhandi by Devdutt Pattanaik. This book has been the subject of a couple of our previous BYOB Parties. Bhavish appreciated the way Pattanaik explored queerness in Indian mythology, revealing how Indians were remarkably casual about gender fluidity and the entire spectrum of gender at one time. The book is a series of short chapters with an explanation that follows and illustrations to match. A lot of accepted norms have been shattered. Take the story of the king who refused to heed his wife’s advice and realized later that he accepted her advice when she had taken a hermit’s form, the moral being that the source of wisdom is not necessarily reserved for one gender only. The conversation veered to Section 377, Victorian ethics and people’s complete ignorance of examples of queerness within their own culture. “Perhaps it was glossed over as the primary narrators of the great epics that explored queerness as well were our grandparents,” Bhavish said.

Image result for identity kundera amazonSunil spoke about a book called Identity by Milan Kundera. Unlike Kundera’s usual flamboyant books, Identity is a surprisingly compact book. “To speak about this book, you need to speak about the author first,” Sunil said, “Kundera talks about abstract, disparate and paradoxical ideas like identity, philosophy, perception and friendship. He reminds you of Camus for the simple reason of what reading his books does to you. It shakes you. Take the example of friendship, for instance. Aren’t friends just a mirror? A measure of where you stand when you reminisce upon your place in the world?”

Makes you want to read the book, doesn’t it?

Image result for the fishermen book amazonI added to the list of sad and powerful books by talking about The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. Compared to none other than Chinua Achebe, Obioma is a master craftsman who does a good job of exploring the Nigerian cultural landscape using the lens of one family in particular. Benjamin narrates the story of his mother, father who is always away and his three brothers. The story speaks about a country broken into two because of staunch belief systems- one of Christianity and the other the shamanistic reality that pervades all of Africa. When the children visit the forbidden river, they meet a shaman who predicts a horrible death for one of the brothers. This self-fulfilling prophecy is enacted on the pages with so much life force. Obiama combines African folklore and regular prose effortlessly. Read it.

And with that, we finally come to the end of the BYOB Party in May 2018.

Mental Health Issues, Secrets and BRICS @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 8)

Image result for the bell jar amazonRoheet spoke about a book that has been described by many readers as chilling. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath who wrote under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas is the tragic story of a poet who loses her mental health. The book is autobiographical and this adds to its authenticity and accuracy in capturing the dark. Plath committed suicide within a month after writing this book, a cry for help. The plight of mental health patients in as recent a time as the 1960s was terrible as adequate treatment methods were still not available. Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953 and she is hopeful about her dazzling future as a writer but she slides. Plath takes a snapshot of her emotional spiral with dark humor and honesty. Little did she know that her work would become a bestseller.

Image result for crow blue amazonPiya has been reading books from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries. She spoke about a book called Crow Blue by Adriana Lisboa. The story revolves around Vanja who has lost her mother and goes in search of her biological father. The book is a timely read, what with all the headlines about immigration. Vanja is half-Portuguese, half American and she’s a teenager. ” It’s a coming of age story, very well-written and smoothly done. You could finish it in four-five hours straight. The book goes back and forth, covering the gory history of Brazil and the guerilla wars. If you are unaware of the history of that time, is a good book to read. What I particularly enjoyed were the way the author picked up generalizations that were made. For instance, Brazilians do not speak Spanish; they speak Portuguese.”

What happens in the story? “Well, all I can tell you is that this not your typical Bollywood movie ending; it’s a mature ending. It goes beyond the Indian immigrant experience and is a light book, though I wouldn’t say that it is not layered. It is and satisfyingly so.”

Image result for beyond the secret amazonChethan spoke about a book called Beyond the Secret by Brenda Barnaby. He liked the way the author dealt with the Law of Attraction and how the world and the individuals populating it could be changed. The author uses various philosophies from across the world to find solutions within the subconsciousness.

More books in Part 9.

 

Hyperspace, Flatland and Endurance @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 7)

Vatsal got a book called Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku. It explores ten-dimensional space and Kaku’s Theory of Hyperspace. The book was far too heavy to comprehend for us three-dimensionals and then a discussion began about the book Flatland, a 2D world occupied by geometric figures where men are polygons and women are straight lines. It’s a dream that leads the narrator, a square, to go to a 3D world called Spaceland.

Image result for when breath becomes air amazonAbhishek decided to end the debate once and for all by bringing up a book that dealt with a non-debatable subject — death. This led to a groan from the audience; no prizes for guessing which book is being spoken about. When Breath Becomes Air has been discussed in many previous BYOB Parties as well, making this BYOB Party a celebration of repeats. Abhishek described how the book chronicled the life of the surgeon and how his life changed post-diagnosis. He was blown away by the maturity in which the doctor and his wife conducted themselves. Dr. Paul Kalanithi was fascinated by death and this why he opted to become a doctor despite his love for literature. Some readers asked Abhishek if they thought the doctor was brave. That was a given; the beauty of the book lies in how it explains how one must conduct oneself in troubled times. Decisions can be made in spite of instability. The doctor had a child at this time. Here’s a passage that Abhishek read out; it’s one of those books that makes you cry:

“The family gathered together. During the precious minutes after Paul’s decision, we all expressed our love and respect. Tears glistened in Paul’s eyes. He expressed gratitude to his parents. He asked us to ensure that his manuscript be published in some form. He told me a last time that he loved me. The attending physician stepped in with strengthening words: “Paul, after you die, your family will fall apart, but they’ll pull it back together because of the example of bravery you set.” Jeevan’s eyes were trained on Paul as Suman said, “Go in peace, my brother.” With my heart breaking, I climbed into the last bed we would share.”

Image result for endurance lansingamazonDivya was tired of the excessive debates too and decided to present a non-controversial story, a true story about an Antarctic expedition called Endurance by Alfred Lansing. The story is astonishing, well-researched and undeniably true. Lansing spoke to ten of the survivors of the Endurance’s final trip and has meticulously recreated the expedition, where for ten months Shackleton and his crew tried to battle the odds. “A huge part of the book is technical and filled with ship terminology,” Divya said. “In spite of that, the book keeps you on edge and since it’s not a fiction, the treatment is different. No iceberg collision takes place at all when you expect it. It’s not a typical read.”

More books in Part 8.

Yiddish, Right to Education, and Elephants @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 6)

Image result for love in exile isaac amazonApurba is fond of reading remote narratives about obscure places and people. This time she chose a Hebrew writer called Isaac Bashevis Singer who wrote in Yiddish.  Love and Exile is the story of Singer’s own life from his childhood in Poland until the time he went to New York. It’s the story of the birth and growth of a writer, a Yiddish one at that. Once Hitler came to power, his family fled from Poland; he finally ended up going to the US following the heels of many of his friends who had emigrated to other countries including Palestine because they had the money. Apurba identified with this Nobel Prize Winner’s candor. In his late 20s, he was as disillusioned and clueless about life as many of us are. He wrote in Yiddish, which was a dying language.  Even when he was in the US, he found it difficult to gel with the east coast Jewish population. His older brother was more established than he was. In fact, the first thirty years of his life were pretty unremarkable. This was heartening to Apurba as here was a man who lived an ordinary life and talked about, including all his failures and the alienation of displacement.

Here’s a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer if you want to get hold of his fantastic prose right now. Click here.

Image result for dear mrs naiduAbhaya got a children’s book this time, a delightful read called Dear Mrs Naidu by Mathangi Subramanian.  The story revolves around Sarojini whose best friend moves out of her basti. She now wants to go to his school which is better than hers; the Right to Education Act then makes its appearance and using the story of a friendship and letters to the freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu, Mathangi Subramnium creates a very informative and educational book with the message that good intentions alone are not enough for implementation. Comparisons of the book with the Bollywood movie Hindi Medium were made. Although the book is for children, Abhaya found it well worth a read to make sense of this controversial act.

Image result for swimmer among the starsamazonSwimmer Among the Stars, a collection of short stories, by Kanishk Tharoor did not disappoint. Sowmya looked forward to yet another Tharoorian waft of prose. and she was delighted. “He’s a master with words,” she gushed, ” His stories are simple but very different. In fact, my favorite story is one about an eyelash.” His stories are diverse featuring elephants, cooks, space and armies. His historical epic take of the world is punctuated by myth and folklore and influences of Italo Calvino and Borges appear from time to time.

Click here to read an interview with the master craftsman.

 

More books in Part 7.

Strange Loops @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 5)

Image result for i am a strange loop amazonWaseem got a book called I Am a Strange Loop: 0. It is Douglas Hofstadter’s first book, a cognitive scientist’s mathematical look at consciousness. The idea is that the idea of the self is, in fact, the result of an abstract feedback loop within us. The book is about abstract calculable stuff and so it would be far better to quote the reader’s views.

“This book gives you an understanding of consciousness. You are a self-referential loop. Everything you think you are is the result of what is happening around you, so you are dependent on external circumstance.  You can’t evolve on your own. This is the basis of evolution- from the human eye to everything else. The self is the result of various interactions. It is the highest form of abstraction there is and a manifestation of downward causation- there is so much going on to prop up the ‘I’. You exist because a bunch of cells prop you up and what you call ‘you’ is built over it and over it and over it ad infinitum in a paradoxical loop, so you are constantly imbibing what you see around you and you are a reflection of what you have learnt. Over a period of time, all these instances create symbols like fear, for example. The role of external stimulus is undeniable and the image becomes highly complex.  The more you interact with others, the more loops are created.”

The book is confusing but by using analogies that relate to biology and mathematics, the author succeeds in making you think very deeply about abstractions. The one takeaway that Waseem had from this book was the necessity to invest in other people as the image of ourselves is a reflection of everything we take from others.

It’s the kind of book that deserves an entire blog post to itself. More books in Part 6.

Sapiens and Da Vinci Diaries @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 4)

Image result for sapiens amazonSapiens by Dr. Yuval Harari is an extraordinary book. We’ve seen the book surface several times during our BYOB Parties and each time the book elicits a different response. Dhruv found Sapiens inspiring unlike the doom and gloom that the book evinced for many readers; he was piqued by the reasons behind European colonization of the world. Abhaya thinks that Jared Diamond’s book called Guns, Germs and Steel does more justice to the theories behind European colonization. He didn’t find Hariri’s book scholarly enough though the aim of the book was primarily to introduce lay readers to theories and important questions, which he has succeeded in.

Image result for Extraordinary Voyages jules verne amazonVishal spoke about Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Voyages, a compilation of novels that he found remarkable. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the sea was just one of the many novels this prolific writer had written. Another book that Vishal chose to speak about in detail was Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. What Vishal found compelling about this magnificent biography and Verne’s voyage stories was the way ordinary people who were not necessarily experts remained curious throughout their lives and made great inventions and discoveries on the way, a luxury in today’s automated world where curiosity leads you to Google and not beyond.

Image result for walter isaacson leonardo da vinci amazonDa Vinci was not everyone’s favorite painter. He may be held in great esteem now but back then during the Renaissance, he had a bad reputation when it came to deliverability, engaged as he was in conversing with mathematicians, building bridges, applying science to painting and learning for the sake of learning. Da Vinci was a visionary – “illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical”.

“There is such a saturation of tech nowadays that we miss out on this exploration,” Vishal said. “His notebooks describe a woodpecker and he asks questions like why the sky is blue. He didn’t limit himself. The fields of specialization were all nascent and there was room for curiosity.”

A noisy debate ensued on the problem with experts, the necessity of curiosity, and how experiments are conducted.

More books in Part 5.