BOOKWORM: WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING LATELY
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translation by Swami Vivekananda, Watkins, $14.95. First published as Raja Yoga or Conquering the Internal Nature, The Yoga Sutras of Patan-jali is widely regarded as the most authoritative text on yoga. It comprises a collection of Indian sutras or “threads” written more than 1700 years ago. These threads or aphorisms were compiled by the Indian sage Patanjali and offer guidelines for living a meaningful and pur-poseful life. “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal.”
I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You, by David Chariandy, McClelland & Stewart, $19.95. Parents try to protect their children – shield them from all that can harm or hurt them. One way to do this is to assure them that bad guys don’t exist, that witches and ogres live only in fairy tales and mom and dad will always keep them safe. But the sad truth is that there are enough and more interactions that leave little ones asking, “Hey, what happened?”
And so, David Chariandy takes the second, infinitely harder, approach. He addresses his 13-year-old daughter, and writes about growing up the son of a Black mother and South Asian father in a predominantly Caucasian society.
And still, as Black youths we faced what even our parents couldn’t always see: the clutched purses of women when we approached; the watchful assumptions of cashiers when we entered a store; the constant everyday assumptions of adults about our intelligence, our moral character, out bodies.
He shares his aspirations for his children..
You go to a French immersion school, not only because your mother, raised and educated in Quebec, wished this for you, but because I too hoped that you would not become trapped, as I am, in a single language. And yet the irony is that your very success has turned me into the imaginary immigrant parent I never thought I would be, proud of his daughter’s accomplishments in school, yet unable to help her with even her grade seven homework.
And his hopes and dreams.
I have heard some well-wishing folk proclaim people like you the happy future for humankind, imagining that racial prejudice will come to an end when everyone, through countless inter-mixings, achieves the same features and tone of brown. Forgive me dearest one, but I don’t share this hope. The future I yearn for is not one in which we will all be clothed in sameness, but one in which we will finally learn to both read and respectfully discuss our differences.
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is one of the most moving and brave books I’ve read in a long time.
The Billionaire Raj, by James Crabtree, Tim Duggan Books, $37. Those who left India back when the Congress Party was still in power find a nation that is changing economically, politically and culturally on their visits back.
This sense of an immense upheaval has been further exacerbated by the availability of 24/7 media and the ever-growing reports of corrup-tion, scams and scandals. James Crab-tree’s The Billionaire Raj puts things in context.
Why did Mukesh Ambani choose to build an in-your-face skyscraper home in Mumbai knowing well that this is only going to rouse the resentment of those who dwell below, literally? Why do tycoons like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi flee to foreign shores? And why it is important for the current Indian government to bring them to justice. How did India go from the staid journalism of the venerable Times of India to the raucous sets of their television channel Times Now? And who is the real Arnab Goswami? How did cricket evolve from being a gentleman’s game to a multi-billion dollar industry beset with gambling and match-fixing? Is it true that India’s top 10 corporate conglomerates are broke? Are Indian banks in the perilous state of never being able to recover their dues from these high rollers?
Crabtree, a former Mumbai bureau chief for the Financial Times and currently an academic in Singapore, peels the layers that mask the real India where the spectacular rise of the new billionaire class is in stark contrast to a radically unequal society.
Inequality has complex causes... but it does mean ending the ridiculous situation in which only one per cent of Indians pay any income tax at all and barely 5000 people do so on earnings above Rs 10 million ($155,000).
My So-Called Bollywood Life, by Nisha Sharma, Crown, $23.99. I grew up watching Bollywood movies and confess to being an unadulterated, unabashed fan. But my life didn’t play out like one – complete with song-and-dance routines – and I certainly didn’t look for guidance from the hero of the period.
Who does that? I muttered as I started on My So-Called Bollywood Life. Well, a kid who is growing up in a family where watching Sholay is an annual Thanksgiving tradition, that’s who!
And isn’t the magic of movies all about the suspension of disbelief? I put mine on hold and let Winnie (Vaneeta) Mehta tell her story through movies. The loving parents, the doting grandmother – nothing like the pickle-making one in Delhi 6, she notes – the boy friend called Raj and a best friend who is with her through thick and thin... until she isn’t. Even Gurinder Chadha makes a surprise appearance.
All the ingredients of a potboiler are there and Nisha Sharma presents a fun read. One that would make a fun movie, replete as it is with references to old classics and new blockbusters.
The Weather Detective, by Peter Wohlleben, Dutton, $27. An early harbinger of a bad weather front is the appearance of artificial clouds, i.e. the condensation trails of airplanes (contrails). If these don’t dissolve, that means humidity is on its way, and with it a low-pressure area. The sky will soon cloud over.
In The Weather Detective, Peter Wohlleben brings to us ways of de-coding the weather, ways that ancients were well-versed in, signs that even our parents could perhaps read but we have forgotten how to.
The humble daisy can help you decide whether to hang your laundry outside to dry or if the dryer is a better choice on a particular morning.
“If rain is on its way, or a storm, the petals close up. Some even droop downwards to avoid letting a single drop in. When the weather is fine, the blossom remains open.”
Plants, birds, the creatures that scurry around in our gardens, they can all help us predict the weather, reveals Wohlleben. He also debunks commonly-held beliefs. The saying “when swallows fly high, the weather will be dry” for instance.
It could well lead you astray, he writes.
If anything, it’s the other way around as researchers have discovered that as the wind picks up, swallows are likely to fly higher than usual.
The Weather Detective is a little less engaging than his previous books, The Hidden Life of Trees and The Inner Life of Animals, both of which went on to become international bestsellers.
Perhaps that is because wind speeds and lightening bolts are less engaging than trees and goats.
However, packed with information that every gardener is looking for – when is it safe to bring the oleanders out, when is it safe to plant the zucchini – it is no less fascinating.
And the premise of the book leaves one with much to mull over.
Our brain is designed for so much more than merely working on a computer or driving a vehicle: it’s the most important tool at our disposal for making sense of our environment. With the help of our old gray matter, we can sharpen our senses enough to match the sensory abilities of our fellow creatures.
TEENAGE BOOK REVIEW
By Nidal H. Chaudhry
Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, Crown, $24.30. What you show to others, what you do around them, how you interact with them leads them to (subconsciously or consciously) judge you.
Being alpha, gregarious, talkative, outgoing, a risk taker, and confident with groups of people is not only respected, but also preferred in the real world. But what about those who can’t speak up or can’t “come out of their shell”?
What if you prefer to read a book rather than go to a party?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking outlines the power of introverts, mentioning several important inventions and discoveries that were made by introverts, and shows how introverts can perform much better in certain situations than extroverts.
It dispels inaccurate beliefs, assumptions and myths about both introverts and extroverts.
The real issue is that we live with an ‘Extrovert Ideal’, which causes extroverts to be seen as far better than introverts, simply due to their outgoingness. Words do not do justice to the amazing impact that Cain’s book had on me.
A compilation of research, interviews, expert opinions, and entertaining storytelling, Quiet reveals the truth about introversion and explains why introverts are the way they are. Quietly, Quiet, spoke to many people which explains its quick rise to fame. I recommend this book to teens and adults alike.
• Nidal H Chaudhry is a grade 11 student and a member of Brampton Library’s Teen Library Council.