Meditation and Memory @ BYOB Party in Jan 2020 (Part 2)

Krishna enjoyed the book Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama where he speaks about his experiences with teachers like Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, and Ramana Maharshi.
Swami Rama throws up quite a few interesting results on google…on the one hand he is a pioneer of meditation and on the other he has had a controversial reputation
Sreeraj found the title of this book by a Japanese author interesting and hence began to read. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is speculative mystery fiction. The premise is interesting- disappearing things on an island lead to loss of memory of those things. The Memory Police ensures that not a shred of memory remains on the island; even calendars are removed as time is linked to memory. Even the island forgets that it exists. Ogawa creates a techless dystopia where memory itself is a crime and examines the irrationality posed by extreme surveillance. “I enjoyed the way there is a novel within a novel in this book and how Kafkaesque the premise is,” Sreeraj said.
Mention of Kafka led to discussion of the surrealist writer Murakami’s prose and as usual the BYOB Party readers were divided into two camps- one who were exasperated by Murakami and the other who saw merit in his work and saw benefit in reading in a certain chronology if Murakami was to be done justice too. I personally think Murakami’s short stories are a great introduction to his writing style and to see his true genius The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is a good place to start.
Another dystopia that made it to the discussion was The Wall by John Lancaster, a book that talks about post environmental apocalypse Britain. It was even nominated for the Booker Prize last year.
More books in Part 3.

Doors, Balconies and Guns @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 6)

Image result for exit west amazonKanchan was impressed by Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. This dystopian novel tackles the refugee crises and tells the tale of how love finds doors even when people are desensitized to strife. Kanchan remembered only Nadia and referred to Saeed as the other person. Kanchan observed how Nadia was no traditionalist but wore the burkha as she used those parts of the culture which kept her safe. Here’s a snippet that shows how Hamid uses beautiful prose to deal with such pressing issues.

“Perhaps they had decided they did not have it in them to do what would have needed to be done, to corral and bloody and where necessary slaughter the migrants, and had determined that some other way would have to be found. Perhaps they had grasped that the doors could not be closed, and new doors would continue to open, and they had understood that the denial of coexistence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinguishing party too would have been transformed in the process, and too many native parents would not after have been able to look their children in the eye, to speak with head held high of what their generation had done.”

If the book interests you, you may find this interview of the author interesting.

Pratibha talked about an interesting story (a comedy-drama) called The Women’s Balcony set in Tel Aviv. The story begins at a Bar Mitzvah in a synagogue where the woman’s seating spot, which is the balcony, collapses. This leads to utter chaos and attempts to rebuild the space are thwarted. The story touches on sexuality, casual sexism, religion, radicalization, etc.

Image result for Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight amazonDhwani talked about a bestselling memoir called Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. The author reminisces on her unique childhood set in Africa (in Rhodesia, Malawi and Zambia) with a humorous and compelling voice. Her father was part of the white government while her mother immersed herself in the pulsating life around her. The story is about a family’s love for Africa and yet Fuller traces the reasons for this as partly being the idea of superiority that white people exercised in Africa at the time. Fuller puts her powerful observation skills into overdrive as she describes the way people lived there. Dhwani described how unsafe it was at the time and how children were advised never to wake their parents at night since they were armed (owing to the Rhodesian Bush War) and could shoot them by accident.

The cover interested the readers at the party and conversation veered around to how women are often shown without their heads, the focus zooming elsewhere. More on the Headless Woman Project @ Scroll.

And we that, we come to the end of the BYOB Party in March 2018.

Dystopia and Young Adult Fiction @ BYOB Party in IIIT-Delhi in September 2016 (Part 2)

I had read an article recently about the secret appeal to teenagers that lies in George Orwell’s dystopia 1984 and sure enough Orwell was not excluded from this gathering. Animal Farm that describes the secret ministrations of hierarchy was mentioned. “It’s not just a parody of communism, but a parody of any system, even the corporate world.”

if-tomorrow-comesRamya, an ardent Sidney Sheldon fan, talked about If tomorrow comes, Tell me your dreams and Master of the game. What the students surmised from reading these books was that the books revolved around a central female and ideas about the inherent power struggle in a man’s world remains a relevant topic even today. Turns out adolescents like dark fiction. You can read more about this here:

da-vinci-codeIf there is a Sidney Sheldon, then a discussion about Jeffrey Archer cannot be far behind. The all time favorite seemed to be Kane and Abel and The Prodigal Daughter. Dan Brown was another favorite, with students heatedly arguing over whether Inferno had the edge over Da Vinci Code. Incidentally, there is an illustrated version of Da Vinci Code as well.

Short Book Review: 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell

1984Animal FarmSBR: How do you review iconic books like these, and that too in short? All I will say is that the world of 1984 has not come to pass (thankfully!) for most part. I can’t speak for North Korea. But Animal Farm can be seen everywhere in our democratic society, where all are supposed to be equal. But some are more equal than the others. You don’t need a communist revolution to see the dark joke of Animal Farm in action.
To read or not to read: These are the kind of books you must read to be able to intelligently talk about reading and books. However if you are pressed for time and want to skip the longer read 1984, you should still read Animal Farm because it is relevant irrespective of the form of government we have. It is shorter and easier to read too!