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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Bibliophilic Endeavors – Book Club Meet

Another month, another meet. Our book club DYRT (Did You Read Today) just wound up our monthly get together this evening.

Our guest author kickstarted the session by introducing and reading from one of her books, as well as providing snippets about her writing and publishing journey. Savita Nair is an advertising copywriter by profession, whose genre as a published book writer is poetry. She describes her poetry as “straight-talking prose” that anyone who has dealt with the chaotic madness of modern day urban survival can understand and relate to. Her poetry can be described as a mix of romanticism, thoughtfulness, stoicism, pragmatism. Her poems are for those who enjoy poetry that doesn’t shroud itself in fancy analogies and jargon. Nair revealed she began writing poems at the age of seven, and cites Dorothy Parker as her primary inspiration. Her work reflects her state of mind – complex, candid and fearless. For the book meet today, Nair articulated six poems from her collection titled “Tell Me Your Real Story” – a fusion of angst and heartbreak, celebration and romance, disbelief and skepticism, sarcasm and fun. The poetry bandwagon takes you on a ride that is urban and chic, cynical and syrupy. A wonderful orator as well, Nair has herself read the audio versions of her books. She presented four autographed copies of Tell Me Your Story to randomly selected readers present at the meet.

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The author session was followed by the book review segment. We started with “Sambhaji” by Vishwas Patil, a book originally written in Marathi, but reviewed in English and Hindi by one of our members. A story of the unfortunate journey of the emperor Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj who spent most his life being compared to his father Shivaji Maharaj. The politics behind the throne, the defiance against various forces, the epic wars of Shambhuraje against the British, the Portuguese, Aurangzeb – all in all, a detailed narrative of Shambhaji’s history.

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The little bookworms followed this in-depth analysis of historical facts with some more world history. Some of the children of our members accompanied their parents to the meet, and reviewed their reads as well. Starting with Anne Frank’s “The Diary Of A Young Girl” by a ten year old who was fluent and fabulous as she described her analysis of Anne’s life through her diary entries. A thirteen year old carried forward the reviewing session with Ashwin Sanghi’s “The Krishna Key” – a historical and mythological thriller set around two timelines, five thousand years ago at the time of Lord Krishna (the Blue God), and a child in the present who grows up believing he is the final avatar of Krishna. An exhaustively researched plot which provides an alternate interpretation of the Vedic Age, and can be relished by conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts. Another articulate thirteen year old followed this with a delightful review of John Green’s “Paper Towns” . An attentive, intuitive and funny story about Margo Spiegelman whose adventures are the centre of attraction at her high school. She goes missing one day, and her friend Quentin Jacobsen sets about in unravelling the mystery, which in turn takes him on a splendid road trip across America as he follows the clues left for him. The storyline and plot are simple, but Green’s storytelling bumps the narrative up a notch keeping it funny and poignant, with relatable characters.

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The floor was then left open for the debate session which followed the book reviews. The topic for today was “Freedom To Choose Books” – should parents select books for children or should kids be allowed to choose what they want to read? Various perspectives were put forth, siding with both hemispheres of the argument. The age of the child, external influences from schools and peer groups, presence or absence of older/younger siblings, the child’s grasp over the language of reading, reasons for reading (pass the time or improve vocabulary) – many factors play a role in whether children should pick their own books or parents need to intervene in their literary choices. A well-rounded discussion where there was no right or wrong, with the emphasis on the context of reading in children.

The venue for this month’s meet being the YMCA, the merry bunch of bookworms wound up our monthly undertaking by donating books to the organization. The customary photo session and snacks brought an end to the evening’s agenda. Until we meet again next month. 🙂

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Entering A Bookstore

The beauty of bookstores that lead you to your favorite books. Something that online portals and ebook shopping cannot recreate.

Tomes and Tales

A warm welcome to the world of books. This “open book” features at the entrance of a bookstore. You enter where the “cover” is – literally having to “close the book” as you open the door. Such an ingenious bookish idea to greet patrons and have bibliophiles coming back for more.

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The text is a poem by Safdar Hashmi – a playwright and director, who was highly involved in street theatre. For those who would like to know what the lines mean, I am translating the contents below.

Books
talk to us
of past eras
of worlds, of people,
of today, tomorrow or yesterday
of each day, each moment
of happiness or gloom
of flowers or bombs
of victories or losses
of love or loss.
Won’t you listen,
to the talks of these books?
The books want to say something…
They want to live with you
Sparrows chirp in these…

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