Can You Read This?

“Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy.”

~Barack Obama

Today is International Literacy Day. It is a joy to read, and even more so to connect with fellow bibliophiles. The picture below is a collage made by marathoner, author and founder of our book club here, Lt. Cdr. Bijay Nair (Retd.). What started off as a bunch of runners who came together to share their common love for reading and discussing books, snowballed into a full-fledged book club which attracted even non-runners/athletes who attended and loved the book meets. We don’t discuss just running or exercise related books, though running was what brought us together. Founder Nair prepared this collage of some of our many meet-ups, as a reminder of the value books play in our lives. In a twist to Joseph Addison’s words, Nair quotes – “Reading is to the mind what running is to the body”. And we have been blessed to find like-minded souls from the runner-reader tribe. “A child without education is like a bird without wings” , goes a Tibetan proverb. Education is a gift no one can take from you – perfectly highlighted on a day that pays tribute to the importance of literacy. Pick up a book today, and be grateful that you can read it.

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Image copyrighted by DYRT
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DYRT – Book Club Meet

“A book is kind of like a river, I simply jump in and start swimming.”

~Melody Carlson

It was time to start swimming with fellow bibliophiles, as the weekend ushered in our book club’s monthly meet-up. For the uninitiated, our reading group was started by a bunch of us runners who loved to read and discuss books, and were looking for people who shared similar interests. What began as a group of runner-readers connecting over common passions, led to family and friends joining in, and ultimately had outsiders attending the book meets as well. Books connect us in myriad ways. Many of the book club members are runners and athletes, but all genres of books are discussed – not just running or sport related ones.

Our book club is referred to by the acronym DYRTDid You Run Today was the name of our running group, which we use interchangeably for Did You Read Today, and we also have a sister writing group for budding authors called Did You (w)Rite Today.

Coming back to our book meet, the session started off by introducing the guest author – a technology professional turned writer who has three books to his credit. Vijay Raghav’s literary career began as a poet in 2012 when he published his first book, ‘The Peak Of All Thoughts‘ – a bouquet of essays written in a mix of prose and poetry. Raghav then came out with his debut novel in 2013 titled ‘Fall‘ – an emotional roller coaster of love, envy, deceit and mystery. The book he selected for today’s reading session was his newly published compilation titled ‘The Curve Of Chance‘. Released in February 2018, the book comprises four intriguing short stories entwined with threads of chance and probability. Set around the city life, the tales are a mix of fact and fantasy, dealing with timely coincidences and untimely encounters. Through our author sessions, we try and introduce readers to niche books and writers who might not be popularly known around the world. It gives readers a chance to explore books they might not have come across otherwise. If you like exploring new authors, check out Raghav’s books.

After the author’s reading session, it was time for book reviews by our reader members of two selected books for today’s meet – Burmese Days by George Orwell, and Zero To One by Peter Thiel. We usually encourage a mix of fiction and non-fiction so that different genres can be explored, which cater to varying reader tastes. ‘Burmese Days‘ was the first novel by George Orwell, published in 1934 and based on his experiences as a policeman stationed in Imperial Burma in the 1920s. John Flory, the 35-year old hero of the novel, was characterized around Orwell himself, and the book presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and bigotry in a society where natives were considered an “inferior people”. Peter Thiel – one of the founders of PayPal – brings to us ‘Zero To One‘ which gives a new perspective on what basis one should start a company, and how businesses should be run. A recommended book for startups and entrepreneurs that sheds light on the fundamentals of starting a business, with Thiel emphasizing on research and innovation and providing anecdotes and statistics to share his insights with the reader.

A fourth book that was the highlight of the evening is titled ‘Fighter‘ – about ex-navy officer cum marathoner and golfer Cdr. Ravi Malhan who succumbed to cancer at the end of last year. His wife Rekha Malhan presented the book which she published in memory of her late husband. Cdr Malhan was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and underwent total laryngectomy, which left him unable to speak in his last days and consequently resorting to share his thoughts through the written word. ‘Fighter‘ is a compilation of all his journal writings and musings, and proceedings from the sales of the book are being donated to cancer charities. The founder of our book club, who is also an ex-Navy officer and marathoner, read excerpts from the book.

We concluded with an autograph session with the guest author of his books that were available for sale at the venue. All in all, another well spent bookish evening for all the bibliophilic attendees who could make it for the meet.