Sunday, March 29, 2015

The fluidity of gender roles

In the aftermath of the immense success of "India's daughter" and the opinions it generated, I am amused that people twist their views on gender to suit their convenience.

Most of our narrative has been binary. It is staggeringly

  • This or That
  • Either I am right or funnily, you are wrong
  • You are with me or against me
  • You are a feminist or a male chauvinist
  • You have a fundamentalist/radical view of women's roles or you think, everything is cool
What we have to urgently realize are a few things and be conscious about the realization -

  • Gender roles have become fluid like never before. Gone are the days when women sought a partner for security and men so that someone can take care of their kids
  • Political correctness has its limitations. By absolving one gender of any wrong and laying all fault at the door of the other, we are only implying that 50% of the population is guilty
  • Every debate has nuances. Every story is not told in shades of black and white
Now, coming to the crux of this post, consider the following -

  • A man has as much right to take a break from work when he wants it or feels like it and try out something new/creative/entrepreneurial
  • A man can be perfectly okay with having a partner who earns higher than him and who has better qualifications
  • A man can still be a man if he doesn't know how to ride a two wheeler or a four wheeler
  • A man can also choose to work or not work fulltime. He doesn't have to be the provider or the head of the family always
  • A boy has as much right to know how much his partner can earn before marriage as the girl
  • A boy can choose to have long hair, choose to wear pink, choose to ride a yellow scooter and choose to wear red shoes
  • Having a flat and earning money in dollars doesn't have anything to do with the male gender alone
  • A man can choose not to open the door for a lady at a restaurant or to pull a chair for her at a table and still be a gentleman
  • A man can be afraid of the dark and scared of the heights
  • Finally, a man who likes Sunny Leone need not be a man who is addicted to pornography or objectification of women
Gender is a construct that helps us understand biological, sociological and neurological differences between sexes. It is not a weapon to beat down one gender and sound politically correct. If we choose to deploy it so, unfortunately, we end up exhibiting a lack of proper discernment, a propensity to draw convenient/easy/cognitively less stressful conclusions and a deep seated inclination to stereotype.

Our society is undergoing transition and it is a transition, undoubtedly for the better. Let us try to treat the inevitable friction during this transition with a healthy degree of empathy. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The 100 books I loved reading

Since I am reading book #200 after I started keeping a count (for the heck of it), I thought a post on the 100 books I liked and a one liner on each of them would be a good post. The list has a mix of classics, Non Fiction, Fiction, business and management books. 

Here are my 100 - Name, Author, my two cents/memorable quote and Good reads/Amazon link
  1. One day - David Nicholls - Funny, serious, emotional roller coaster, coming-of-age story, also a story of harsh, albeit late realizations -  Link 
  2. Past Continuous/A life apart -  Neel Mukherjee - Loved Mukherjee's prose, at times meandering into unnecessary details but mostly good, throws light on a young boy growing up in 70s/80s Kolkata. Has a very absorbing parallel story set in 1900s colonial India. - Link 
  3. Essays in Love - Alain De Botton - Vintage De Botton, Finest piece of prose you may possibly lay your hands on, love becomes all the more enchanting in his hands - Link  
  4.  The Romantics - Pankaj Mishra - Contemplative in parts, heart rending in parts, richly evocative of beautiful Varanasi, this is a surprisingly good read - Link
  5. Indira Gandhi - Nayantara Sehgal - This is an insider's account of Indira Gandhi, at her vulnerable and ruthless moments, pacy for a biographical account- Link
  6. The boy in the striped pyjamas - John Boyne - The horror of the second world war told through a young boy's eyes, this would leave the reader sad - Link
  7.  Dear Zari - Zarghuna Kargar - A peek into Afghanistan's different customs, traditions and how the patriarchy takes a toll on a society's womenfolk. The brilliance of this book lies in the triumph of the women in its stories, despite all possible odds. - Link
  8. Thinking fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman - Sheer brilliance of Kahneman to the fore, a tour de force that will turn your conventional views on its head and leave you dazzled - Link
  9. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov - You will not see a girl child with an ordinary eye, oops, did I say something wrong? I stand by it. Humbert Humbert gives you the creeps - Link
  10. Steppenwolf - Herman Hesse - "Steppenwolf's nature was thus twofold, partly human, partly wolfish." - Link
  11. The dark road - Ma Jian - The saddest book I have read, on the tragedy that is the forced family planning laws of China - Link
  12. The wisdom of insecurity - Alan Watts - If there are a few books in this list that is recommended for rereading, this surely is one- Link
  13. Bonded - Harold M Bergsma - The potential was great, the characters, too well sketched to be let down in such a fashion, Pakistan's child/bonded labour in focus - Link
  14. In the shadow of the banyan - Vaddey Ratner - The civil war in Cambodia, the forced displacement of scores of people and a royal family caught right in the middle, this is a must read for the hope it offers and for the lessons in human spirit it teaches - Link
  15. The art of travel - Alain De Botton - Please buy this if you like traveling, Amen - Link 
  16. The conquest of happiness - Bertrand Russell - This book should be reread every month - Link
  17. Reverse Innovation - Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble - Replete with case studies and examples, this one should be read slowly and patiently. Gets a little repetitive, falls slightly short of expectations, nevertheless a good informative read - Link
  18. The art of choosing - Sheena Iyengar - Choices will never seem straightforward after reading this one, a truly different perspective - Link
  19. The museum of innocence - Orhan Pamuk - This is Pamuk's tribute to love, a laborious read in parts, but if you labour on, it becomes a rewarding read - Link
  20. Lucknow Boy, A Memoir - Vinod Mehta - Mr Mehta comes across as touchingly human, quite different from the persona we see on TV debates - Link
  21. Strategic Selling - Miller and Heiman - Selling is a science (and an art too), this is a classic text book, quite useful and a methodical approach to the function - Link
  22. Code Halos - Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, Ben Pring - Futuristic, relevant and complex concepts explained with a rare clarity - Link
  23. Smoke and Mirrors, An experience of China - Pallavi Aiyar - "The new China was a land of dichotomies : chaos and control, change and continuity, wealth and poverty, good and evil coexisted here in a potentially explosive mix" - Link
  24. Cinnamon Gardens - Shyam Selvadurai - This is a highly under rated book, would rate it among the top 10 books I have read (Fiction) - Link
  25. Predictably Irrational - Dan Arielly - Descartes said, Cogito ergo Sum - "I think, therefore I am" But suppose, we are nothing more than the sum of our first, naive, random behaviors, what then? - Link
  26. The difficulty of being good - Gurcharan Das - Mahabharata holds a lot of lessons for the modern day professional - Link
  27. Man's search for meaning - Viktor E Frankl - "A human being is not one in pursuit of happiness, but rather in search of a reason to become happy" - Link
  28. The idea of justice - Amartya Sen - Complex read, worth the effort, Niti and Nyaya, the difference between the two, exhaustive references, this is Mr. Sen at his brilliant best - Link
  29. Swimming Across - Andrew S Grove - "I realized that it is good to have atleast two interests in your life. If you have only one interest and that goes sour, there is nothing to act as a counterbalance to lift your mood" - Link
  30. The Reader - Bernhard Schlink - This is a story you will remember long after you turn the last page, remarkable love - Link
  31. Chowringhee - Sankar - "If you want to preserve a corpse, put it into whiskey, and if you want to kill a living man, pour whiskey into him" - Link
  32. Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi - The best graphic novel ever written, a collector's delight and an ideal gift choice for a book lover - Link
  33. Fragrant Harbour - John Lanchester - "She was pretty but the most attractive thing about her was her evident talent for happiness" - Link
  34. Black Margins - Saadat Hasan Manto - If there is one short story collection you are going to buy, buy this - Link
  35. For the new intellectual - Ayn Rand - "Every form of causeless self doubt, every feeling of inferiority and secret unworthiness is, in fact, man's hidden dread of his inability to deal with existence" - Link
  36. The audacity of hope - Brack Obama - "Alone in the kitchen washing the dishes, I imagined my two girls growing up, and I felt that ache that every parent must feel at one time or another, that desire to snatch up each moment of your child's presence and never let go - to preserve every gesture, to lock in for all eternity the sight of their curls or the feel of their fingers clasped around yours" - Link
  37. The unbearable lightness of being - Milan Kundera - "Does he love me? Does he love anyone more than me? Does he love me more than I love him? Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short." - Link
  38. Sputnik Sweetheart - Haruki Murakami - Classical Murakami, Amen - Link
  39. Tears of the desert - Halima Bashir - Female genital mutilation and an autobiographical account of the war in Sudan - Link
  40. Diary of a bad year - JM Coetzee - "You can't be honest in a marriage-type relationship where you live together, not absolutely honest, not if you want it to last. That is one of the down things about marriage." - Link 
  41. Golden Age - Tahmima Anam - In my list of top 10 fiction books, remarkably well written for a first novel, a glimpse into Bangladesh during its birth - Link
  42. Disgrace - JM Coetzee - A work of sheer genius, buy it if you want to know how well books can be written, buy it if you read to appreciate a master at his best - Link
  43. Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer - "It is easy when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it" - Link
  44. To Sir with love - ER Braithwhite - "Every teacher should have a fund of ready information on which to draw; he should keep that fund supplied regularly by new experiences, new thoughts and discoveries, by reading and moving around among people from whom he can acquire such things"- Link
  45. Darkness at noon - Arthur Koestler - "A second, smashing blow hit him on the ear. Then all became quiet. There was the sea again with its sounds. A wave slowly lifted him up. It came from afar and traveled sedately on, a shrug of eternity" - Link
  46. Seeing - Jose Saramago – It’s odd how we spend every day of our life saying goodbye, saying and hearing others say see you tomorrow when, either the person we said to will no longer be here, or we who said it will not”  - Link
  47. The Painted Veil – Somerset Maugham – “Because he had dressed a doll in gorgeous robes, and set her in a sanctuary to worship her, and then discovered that the doll was filled with sawdust he could neither forgive himself nor her”Link
  48. What are you doing with your life – J Krishnamurti – “We do not love and let it alone, but crave to be loved; we give in order to receive, which is the generosity of the mind and not of the heart. The mind is ever seeking certainty, security; and can love be made certain by the mind?”Link
  49. Blindness – Jose Saramago – All the people in a city go blind. This is the best book I have ever read. Mind blowing stuff. Would top any of my lists. – Link
  50. Snow – Orhan Pamuk – “While Gemini men are best suited to Virgo women, the double personality of Geminis, which makes them light and shallow, can either delight or disgust a Gemini woman”Link
  51. The sea, The sea – Iris Murdoch – Murdoch is my favorite writer. This is considered to be one of her best works. – Link
  52. A Writer’s notebook – Somerset Maugham – Very different book. Maugham wrote down his observations of life and musings in a diary to be used later in his works. “A thing of beauty is not, as Keats said, a joy for ever; it is a thing that excites in us a particular emotion at a particular moment, and if it does that it gives us all that beauty can give. It is absurd to despise people who don’t share our aesthetic opinions”Link
  53. The Siege – Helen Dunmore – “The three of them are far off, and it is hard to tell. Suddenly they move into a bar of light reflecting up from the water. Broken, shivering pieces of light run up and down their bodies. They look as if they are dancing. They are mother, father and child out for a walk on this beautiful may afternoon, as Leningrad settles like a swan on the calmest of waters”Link
  54. The house of blue mangoes – David Davidar – “He empties his mind, concentrates the senses. He regards the fruit he has picked for a moment, then raises the mounded end with the dimple in the centre, to his nose and inhales deeply. The bouquet explodes upon his senses: a huge delectable sweetness, overlaid with notes of freshness, lightness, sun and blue…”Link
  55. Shalimar the clown – Salman Rushdie – “Was he clothing an essentially savage, irrational thing in the garb of civilization, dolling it up in the dress shirt of endurance, the silk trousers of constancy, the frock coat of solicitude and the top hat of selflessness?”Link
  56. Cakes and Ale – Somerset Maugham – “I noticed as we walked along that sometimes men who passed us stared at Mrs Driffield. It occurred to me presently that they must think her pretty too. I began to walk with a certain swagger.”Link
  57. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami – “Just as each person has certain idiosyncrasies in the way he or she walks, people have idiosyncrasies in the way they think and feel and see things, and though you might want to correct them, it doesn’t happen overnight, and if you try to force the issue in one case, something else might go funny.” Link
  58. The narrow corner – Somerset Maugham – “The wise man combines the pleasures of the senses and the pleasures of the spirit in such a way as to increase the satisfaction he gets from both. The most valuable thing I have learnt from life is to regret nothing. Life is short, nature is hostile, and man is ridiculous; but oddly enough most misfortunes have their compensations…” Link
  59. Arrival and Departure – Arthur Koestler – “The hardest sentences are those which people inflict on themselves for imaginary sins”Link
  60. The Frenchman’s creek – Daphne Du Maurrier – “What is the difference between happiness and contentment? It is not easy to put into words. Contentment is a state of mind and body when the two work in harmony, and there is no friction. The mind is at peace and the body also. The two are sufficient to themselves. Happiness is elusive – coming perhaps once in a lifetime and approaching ecstasy.”Link
  61. Love in the time of cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – “It is incredible how one can be happy for so many years in the midst of so many squabbles, so many problems, damn it, and not really know if it was love or not”Link
  62. Sophie’s Choice – William Styron – “The look of love they exchanged – the merest instant of eyes meeting then melting together, but marvelously intense – was so embarrassingly intimate that I turned briefly away.”Link
  63. Vernon God Little – DBD Pierre – “You’ll have a honey of a life if you love the people who love you first”Link
  64. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – “Women fancy admiration means more than it does”Link
  65. The catcher in the rye – Jerome David Salinger – “I’m always saying ‘Glad to have met you’ to somebody I am not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff though”Link
  66. Round the bend – Nevil Shute – “You can only do a thing for the first time once, and that goes for falling in love. You may do it over and over again afterwards but it’s never the same.”Link
  67. Of Human Bondage – Somerset Maugham – “It is clear that men accept and immediate pain rather than an immediate pleasure, but only because they expect greater pleasure in the future” Link
  68. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky – “In order to understand any man one must be deliberate and careful to avoid forming prejudices and mistaken ideas, which are very difficult to correct and get over afterwards”Link
  69. An outcast of the islands – Joseph Conrad – “Fatalism is born of the fear of failure, for we all believe that we carry success in our own hands, and we suspect that our hands are weak”Link
  70. Desertion – Abdulrazak Gurnah –“I don’t want to find myself saying that they fell in love as soon as they caught sight of each other and the rest followed, that they looked into each other’s eyes and into each other’s souls and abandoned every other demand that circumstances made on them, can that kind of thing be true? Do such things happen? And even if they do, how can they be written?”Link
  71. Under Western eyes – Joseph Conrad – “A man’s real life is that accorded to him in the thoughts of other men by reason of respect or natural love”Link
  72. The remains of the day – Kazuo Ishiguro – Ishiguro writes poetry. Please buy this one to savour any day – Link
  73. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky – Dostoevsky seems to give the middle finger to all the proponents of freedom and liberty when he writes: “Humanity yearns above all not for freedom, but for ‘mystery’, ‘miracle’ and ‘authority’”Link
  74. This blinding absence of light – Tahar Ben Jelloun – “Even with the cruelest misfortune, there comes a time when forgetting begins, and discouragement fades.”Link
  75. Commentaries on living – J Krishnamurti – “What we are is made up of what we have been; and what we have been also shapes the future, without definitely giving line and substance to every thought and action. The present is a movement of the past to the future”Link
  76. Goodbye to Berlin – Christopher Isherwood – Isherwood was such a fine writer and this book is such a gem – Link
  77. The people’s act of love – James Meek – “Death gave life the beauty of finity, the beauty of the edge line, and life, even a second of it made death small” – Link
  78. Mr. Norris changes trains – Christopher Isherwood – “It’s so stupid to bear grudges. In this life, one is apt to lose a great deal through a mistaken sense of pride” Link
  79. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie – “Memory selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, it’s heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own”- Link
  80. Notes from the underground – “In every man’s memories there are such things as he will reveal not to everyone, but perhaps only to friends. There are also such as he will reveal not even to friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. Then, finally, there are such as man is afraid to reveal even to himself, and every decent man will have accumulated quite a few things of this sort”Link
  81. The sovereignty of Good – Iris Murdoch – “We act rightly ‘when the time comes’ not out of strength of will but out of the quality of our usual attachments and with the kind of energy and discernment which we have available”Link
  82. The blue bedspread – Raj Kamal Jha – “This city likes lonely people, the city likes him. There’s no one to walk by his side, to wait for him at a street crossing, so the city moves in to help, it slows down the traffic, parts the crowds. There’s no one to talk to him, so the city speaks through its banners, its hoardings.”Link
  83. Fury – Salman Rushdie – “How does a woman for whom every man hungers decide that one is enough?”Link
  84. Under the Net – Iris Murdoch – The first work of my most favorite writer. “True virtue, true goodness, true love flow from the respect for the strangeness and the mystery of other people and the world that surrounds us. They flow from the refusal to inflict our own designs on them, to deny their innate elusiveness, their impenetrable quiddity.”- Link
  85. The picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde – “Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them they will forgive us everything, even our intellects.”Link
  86. By the Sea – Abdulrazak Gurnah – “You never stop wishing to live, or wishing for companionship and purpose.”Link
  87. The red and the green – Iris Murdoch – “Could reproach and love become so nearly identical? Yes, for this is the nature of the magnet by which what is good draws what is partly evil, by which perhaps mysteriously it may even draw what is wholly evil. The light cast from a perfect center cannot but define what is imperfect in a revelation which is both a rebuke and summons”Link
  88. The In-between World of Vikram Lall – MG Vassanji – “When men develop contempt for a woman, the vilest, filthiest language escapes their lips”Link
  89. Border Crossing – Pat Barker – “Do you think it is different killing a rabbit and killing a person? Yes. How is it different? Danny looked Tom full in the face. ‘Rabbits run faster’ “Link
  90. An artist of the floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro – “When one holds convictions deeply enough, there surely comes a point when it is despicable to prevaricate further”Link
  91. Harry Potter and the half-blood prince – JK Rowling – “Greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies” – Link
  92. A fine balance – Rohinton Mistry – In my top 3 favorite books, next only to Blindness by Saramago. This is an Indian epic novel! - Link
  93. The Double – Jose Saramago – “Too much imagination is not the best way to gain peace of mind” Link
  94. The Altman Code – Robert Ludlum – “What a caterpillar calls the end of life, wise men call a butterfly”Link
  95. The adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain – One book that every boy should read no matter how old he is - Link
  96. Famous Five on treasure island – Enid Blyton – You will fall in love with the characters and you will start dreaming of adventures - Link
  97. Roots – Alex Haley – The first fat book I read completely. This is the story of America. – Link
  98. The magic faraway tree – Enid Blyton – I remember reading this sitting on the compound wall of the house when I was in 5th or 6th class. Fell in love with reading then – Link
  99. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe – Was part of the school syllabus, inculcated the thirst for adventure – Link
  100. Tell me your dreams – Sidney Sheldon – A Sidney Sheldon classic in every sense – Link
Tell me about your favorite books in the comments...