XKCD, Ice9 and the Dust Bowl @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 5)

Image result for What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions amazonAkshay Arora got a comic book in the last BYOB Party and he read it out. He did the same with  XKCD: What if? by Randall Munroe. He describes the XKCD series as nerdy but deep, particularly with the way the author handles disease with humor. Munroe’s also nerdy…take his revelations on Coding Quality and Bobby Tables.

Image result for cat's cradle book amazonLike Akshay, Aditi did not get a translation. She had a go at Kurt Vonnegut’s famous satire Cat’s Cradle. Unlike Kshitija’s book that lacked chapters, the slim 200-page book has 127 chapters, which makes it a fast read but Aditi finds that the chapters end too soon and serve no purpose. The book was written keeping in mind the Cuban Missile Crises and so the character is a kind of Oppenheimer but his name is Felix Hoenikker and he is the founder of Ice9, a dangerous chemical that can eliminate water. Since Aditi is an astrophysicist herself, she enjoyed the scientific pitch in the book and reflected on how science could go rogue. She loved the apocalyptic vision, the imaginary island dictatorship and the religion called Boskonism.  Anyone who wants to know about this ground-breaking novel that was written in indignant response to the irresponsibility that science made possible should check this link.

Image result for grapes of wrath amazonNomaan was impressed by John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning book about the Great Depression: Grapes of Wrath. The story chronicles the migration of the Joad family from Oklahoma to California. Steinbeck chronicles the divide between the haves and have-nots, differences that still exist everywhere in the world.  Ma is the character he admired most, so he read out something she said, “We’re Joads. We don’t look up to nobody. Grampa’s grampa, he fit in the Revolution. We was farm people till the debt. And then—them people. They done somepin to us. Ever’ time they come seemed like they was a-whippin’ me—all of us. An’ in Needles, that police. He done somepin to me, made me feel mean. Made me feel ashamed. An’ now I ain’t ashamed. These folks is our folks—is our folks. An’ that manager, he come an’ set an’ drank coffee, an’ he says, ‘Mrs. Joad’ this, an’ ‘Mrs. Joad’ that—an’ ‘How you getting’ on, Mrs. Joad?’” She stopped and sighed. “Why, I feel like people again.”

More books in Part 6.

Translations and Twins @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 4)

Sonali was entranced by Chitra Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions, yet another retelling of the Mahabharat epic, this time through Panchali’s eyes. We are led through Panchali’s relationships with her brother,  Krishna and her husbands. Like Helen of Troy, Panchali’s role in the epic Mahabharat is crucial. Her decisions were instrumental in the unfolding of the war that would eventually decimate the Kauravas.  These lines summed up the whole experience for Sonali: “Perhaps that is the miracle of stories. They make us realize that we’re not alone in our folly and our suffering.”

For those who are interested in reading more about Panchali’s point of view, Apurba advised to pick up a copy of Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray, a book that won the Sahitya Akademi Prize, translated from Oriya. Typically books which win the Sahitya Akademi are translated into twelve or more Indian languages.

At the BYOB Party, there is a huge spread of books by diverse authors and many translations are mentioned. Kshitija who had got a translated book for the last BYOB Party got a book called One Out of Two translated from Spanish by the Mexican writer Daniel Sada. The story is delightful and revolves around twin sister spinsters and their competitive streak. Kshitija enjoyed how the author has pictured sibling dynamics and though the translation can be jarring initially, particularly because Sada uses the stream of consciousness technique, once you persist, the reading experience is worth it.

More books in Part 5.

Wodehouse and the Sailor @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 2)

The BYOB Party at IISc started on a serious note with the discussion of the surreal Partition. Srikanth lightened the mood with a light read by the jolly good Wodehouse called  Joy in the Morning, a good book to start the Wodehouse series of 96 books with and a good writer to alleviate depression. He talks about aristocratic bumblings in the quaint English countryside. The title is from an English

translation of Psalms 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

“You either live Wodehouse or you don’t,” Srikanth said. He was delighted by the social commentary, gags and one-liners, similies, metaphors and slang. “Phrases like God’s gift to the gastric juices,” mentioned another reader, “are the reason why we love this author.” He’s also one of the few writers who has given golf such prominence in some of his books.

Listen to Stephen Fry talk about Wodehouse here. The irony lies in how a man with such a sense of humor was misunderstood to have Nazi leanings. Read this to understand Wodehouse as a social commentator and this essay by Orwell defending Wodehouse.

Milind got an inspirational book called The First Indian by Commander Dilip Donde, who was the first Indian to complete a solo circumnavigation under sail in an Indian built boat.The decision to embark on such a journey was done on a whim. The entire exercise was ‘made in India’- the boat was made, provisions arranged, the bureaucracy managed and then he sailed solo.  It was inspiring to know that one of the readers in the group, Nandini, had attempted to climb Mount Everest twice!

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on March 24, 2018 (Saturday)

  RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

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 January 20th 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. This time, there is a raffle prize for those who talk about poetry books – the winner takes a book home!

There will be refreshment and swags courtesy Worth A Read.

Venue: #634 (Ground Floor), 5th Main, Indiranagar, 2nd Stage, Bangalore-560038

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?

Hosted by  Worth a Read.

Co-hosted by The Poetry & Storytelling Team at IISc and Ranade Library.

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 RSVP on Explara.

Sleep Burglars, Flying Lizards and Myth – Diving into the Vernacular @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 3)

This time vernacular books were high on the list of favorites. The idea behind this BYOB Party was to encourage readers to share their favorite poetry books. Amit who heads the Poetry & Storytelling club at IISc spoke about Gulzar’s translation of two of Tagore’s books, Baaghbaan and  Nindiya Chor. Gulzar is one of India’s finest poets and lyricists. There is a story about how the first book he officially stole from a library was Tagore’s. The poems that he has translated are a compilation from some of Tagore’s collections including ChitraKshanikaSonar Tari, Shishu. The books are bi-lingual and so the reader benefits if he or she knows both Bangla and Hindi. Amit read us the poem Nindiya Chor, a delightful lullaby that shows a mother who worries about who has stolen her baby’s sleep. If you want to listen to Gulzar himself recite it, you may want to head to this Youtube link.

Amit explained how translations often put him in a dilemma. How could a translator remain true to the original? Was this even possible? In this case, instead of losing the essence, the book has only gained, as Lalita said: ” Gulzar has only added ornaments to this work.” There then ensued a discussion on the merits and demerits of translation. On the one hand, translation can ruin the experience of the book and on the other as Jaya mentioned, referring to Sheldon Pollock’s championing of that one rare translator who could get the meaning right, translation is essential as it gives writers more mileage and readers more opportunity to read. How would any of us could enjoy writers like Tolstoy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Elena Ferrante otherwise? Priya mentioned how besides translation, even reinvention of the epics (she talked about Joan Roughgarden’s sci-fi version of the Ramayan) only adds to the beauty of the existing story.

4116AKqJ3qL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (319×499)Megha spoke about Maithili Sharan Gupt’s classic work Saket (Saket means Ayodhya-vasi or one who lives in Ayodhya). In this rendition of the Ramayan, he speaks from Lakshmana’s perspective and portrays his wife’s Urmila’s resilience and poetically renders the pain of separation that she must endure. Maithili Sharan Gupt was a proponent of plain dialect poetry and he was a recipient of many awards including that of Rashtra Kavi; he is most loved for the way he deals with his female protagonists as he was progressive for the time. Another writer who empathized with the female was Tamil poet laureate Subramaniam Bharati in whose famous work Panchali Sapatham compares Panchali to India (Bharat Mata).

English somehow doesn’t seem to be the right vehicle for Indian mythology, some readers opined unless you are fond of Amish Tripathi’s trilogy. So much of what vernacular writers have succeeded in doing is lost when translated into English. “What we need is more translations from one Indian language to the other,” Jaya said, “That way we can preserve the cultural nuances of these works.”  Abhaya spoke about a three-part series based in Benares by a writer called Shiv Prasad Singh, “Such details are impossible to find in English,” he said. Even then, Jaya emphasized the usefulness of footnotes in such cases.  Translation is slowly catching on- check out the Murty Classical Library.

“I can only learn two or three Indian languages,” Abhaya explained,”and so for someone like me a translated work is essential.”

51QON2i2lxL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (338×499)Maanasa who heads the Ranade Library at IISc also got a vernacular book, a Kannada novella called Karvaalo by Poornachandra Tejaswi, Kuvempu’s son and one of Karnataka’s favorite writers. The story is a surprising example of what sounded like an ecological thriller. The book is set in the 90s and tells the adventure of how four very different sorts of people–a scientist, photographer, farmer, village boy with a keen sense of observation–go out in search of a rare species of flying lizard. The scientist eventually transforms into a Seer. This is a book that Maanasa finds hard to get out of her head. Since she herself from Malanadu in Karnataka where the book is set, she identified with the humor and later on as she reread it, she was amazed by the depth and relevance of the story. There is an English translation of this book as well: Carvalho.

More books in Part 4.

Partition and the Woman @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 1)

We hosted the first BYOB Party of the year with the IISc Poetry & Storytelling club and Ranade Library at the IISc campus. The venue was beautiful — the highlight being a tree where paper letters were hung with string, beneath which readers talked about the books they were reading.

Apurba has attended several of our parties. She discussed the book The Other side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India by Urvashi Butalia, founder of Zubaan Books. The book is considered to be one of the most influential books in South Asian Studies and has won the Oral History Book Association Award in 2001. Partition is a grim subject and though Apurba found the book repetitive, she thinks this is an important book to read, considering how little we choose to know about this massive event in human history. Within two months, 12 million people were displaced and 75000 women were abducted and raped. Butalia was surprised by the statistics that emerged when she did her research. In spite of having first-hand experience of partition in her own family (her uncle lived in Lahore and converted to Islam), she knew little about the details of the events of those chaotic times. When she talked to individuals, she realized that it was the men who voiced their stories; women needed to be prodded much more.

She spoke about several horrific incidents that Butalia has described such as the way a Sikh father killed his daughter with a kripan. The stigma of rape and the consequent loss of purity led fathers and brothers to protect their women by killing them. Even men suffered. Butalia’s uncle had turned to a persona non-grata as far as his family was concerned but even though he lived in Pakistan, his heart lay in India.

“There ought to be more partition stories about Bengal as well,” Apurba rued. She was grateful for learning about state-sponsored training centers and hostels for women in places like Jalandhar and Ambala. “The Jewish people have documented their struggles but I’m afraid we haven’t done a good job. There is a partition museum in Amritsar though.”

A discussion ensued about why these atrocities remain unrecorded. Some believe that people remain insecure and afraid and so do not wish to tackle the subject head on, preferring to brush it all under the carpet. Others feel that no one owed anyone their personal stories as even these stories would not change the way people conducted themselves. Then there is the idea of social tragedy vs personal tragedy. For many people who suffered during the partition and after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, their suffering was their own and they preferred to let those unreal truths remain unspoken as they had the right not to reveal what had happened to them. “In case of the Holocaust, there is a strong sense of good vs evil but in case of the breakup of a country, who is really at fault?” Abhaya asked.

You can read an excerpt of the book here and listen to the author speak about the book on Youtube.

More books in Part 2.

Dragons, AI and the Nobel @ BYOB Party in November 2017 (Part 7)

Ravi talked about Eldest by Christopher Paolini, the second book in the four-book series The Inheritance Cycle. The story is a mature fantasy based on the adventures of Eragon and his dragon Saphira. Other fantasies that were mentioned were the Kingkiller Chronicle, a fantasy series by Patrick Rothfuss and The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

Bhargavi spoke about how Homo Deus was the most depressing book she had ever read. While Yuval Harari’s Sapiens is a mega-favorite, this book chronicles an eerie future for the human race, a future where Artificial Intelligence will pull strings and shove humans off of the pedestal they have lurched themselves precariously on. If you are in the mood for some science fiction reading, you may want to try reading Asimov’s short story.

 

The 2017 Nobel Prize for literature went to Kazuo Ishiguro and what better way to end the year then a mention of his book, Remains of the Day, a book that Ishiguro wrote in four weeks! The story is written in the perspective of a butler. The narrative contains diary entries and the story veers on the relationship that Stevens shares with Miss Kenton, the housekeeper. The book won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989 and was adapted into a Hollywood film that was nominated for eight Academy Awards. Piya spoke about how enamored she was by the way Ishiguro would make the reader arrive at the place he wanted them to arrive at, no mean feat and the sign of a skilled craftsman.

And with that we end our round-up of books for 2017!

Lemon Cake, PCs and Comics @ BYOB Party in November 2017 (Part 6)

Piya mentioned in passing how impressed she was by Vivek Shanbhag’s book Ghachar Ghochar but the book she wanted us to have a taste of was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.   This modern fairytale food literature has a nine-year-old girl as the protagonist. She has a gift- she can read the emotions of the people who cook the dishes she eats. One day, she is surprised to taste despair in her mother’s lemon cake- a cake she loves deeply. She spits out the cake out – she cannot comprehend her mother’s feelings. As she grows up, she tries to hide this talent and lives on packaged food- to save herself from the consequences of flashbacks. In parallel, family skeletons tumble out and she realizes the problems that her family really faced. The story ends on a positive note. Rose Edelstein becomes a food quality tester. On the whole, Piya found the book to be a fun read replete with recipes and a pinch of family drama.

If fiction is not your cup of tea and you are looking for some company history, Commodore: A Company on the Edge is a good bet. Sudharsan enlightened us about how once upon a time in pre-Apple days, the proverbial Garden of Eden had one prominent PC company. Brian Bagnall talks about the how the company grew and is the case with most success stories that turn failures how the core team destroyed pretty much everyone who created value for the company.

Akshay Arora quite enjoyed The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity by the genius illustrator Grant Snider, dentist turned artist. His comics are fun to read and philosophical at times. “The book looks like a children’s book,” Akshay said, “But it’s far from it. Every panel is different and sometimes poetic, sometimes funny. I haven’t been able to convince my friends about the value of this book which is why I got it here.” It was the first time that a reader read out portions of a comic strip.  Here are some of the comics that Akshay mentioned: Opportunity KnocksTheories of Disappointment, and Nothing.

You can read Snider’s interview here.

More books in Part 7.

Self-help, Philosophy and Habit @ BYOB Party in November 2017 (Part 5)

The debate about whether to read self-help books or not continues. Somnath spoke about how the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson has inspired him so much that he reads it every day before going to work. This business parable features four mice: Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw, each of which have human traits that affect their performance. Somanath believes that there is always room for improvement and self-help books can aid this process; however, many of the techies in the room couldn’t see eye to eye with self-help literature.

Sreeja got a self-help book too called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy. This bestseller book is eye-opening, Sreeja says, and she follows affirmation techniques that Murphy has prescribed. “It works,” Sreeja affirmed.

Deepak talked about how the non-fiction book that really got him started on reading was Homo Sapiens by Yuval Hariri. However, he spoke about a different book-  A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine- a book about philosophy, particularly the stoicism of ancient Rome. Irvine uses the lessons he has learned from this ancient

philosophy to provide clarity for those who deal with dissatisfaction. He talks about how people can control their anger, minimise their distress and use awareness to lead fruitful lives.

Tanay got a popular book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. This road trip philosophy is also a must read if you intend to take up motorcycle travel. “The book is a treasure trove of quotes,” Tanay said. This bestseller tells the story of a motorcycle trip by a father and son. The motorcycle works brilliantly as a metaphor as well.

Mukesh picked up The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter. This heavily researched book explains the significance of habit formation and how individuals and business benefit from creating positive habits. Habit formation is an integral part of living in a community and organizational culture. Duhigg delves into many spaces, including advertising, customer service and the Civil Rights Movement.  Habits can be changed, manipulated and created- Duhigg explains how.

More books in Part 6.

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on Jan 20, 2018 (Saturday) @ IISc, Bengaluru

BYOB Party is back and this time it’s at IISc, Bengaluru!

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 January 20th 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. This time, there is a raffle prize for those who talk about poetry books – the winner takes a book home!

There will be refreshment and swags courtesy Worth A Read.

Venue: Near Choksi Hall, IISc, Bengaluru

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?

Hosted by  Worth a Read.

Co-hosted by The Poetry & Storytelling Team at IISc and Ranade Library.

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 RSVP on Explara.