Books I Loved This Year

2017 is almost coming to an end. And, of course, it’s time to reflect upon the year that was. And I’ve chosen to revisit some of the books I read and fell absolutely in love with this year. There have been a lot more books than I have chosen to write about. However, this is a list of books that truly inspired me. 

Asura by Anand Neelakantan

This book is an excellent parallel narrative to the popular epic of Ramayana that most of us, Indians, grew up with. It openly provides a bold new perspective to the popular characters of the epic and convincingly so.
It left me questioning what my grandma had told me about Ram and Ravan, their inherent qualities and the actions that they took during various turning points of this literary marvel.

What’s so refreshing about the book is that it humanizes the characters, thereby allowing us to view the characters in a more realistic manner, without attaching the idea of supremacy to the characters that we were taught to view as gods. Thus, the characters become so much more relatable, and their stories become that much more relevant to present times. It powerfully convinces the reader of the many layers that the popular characters possess. And it allows one to view the epic as a literary masterpiece and steps away from religious sentiments for a bit.

This book became a personal favourite because it came at a time when I began to question a lot of popular narratives of great epics, often followed in the world of Bharathanatyam and wished to step away from them.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

This outstanding book pulverized my preexisting notions about feminism. It has helped me evolve into the feminist I am today; by offering a unique definition for feminism and by allowing me to question every aspect of what I previously believed in and seek answers for the same. 

Additionally, it helped me gain me a deeper understanding of the fact that there exist many layers to feminism; affected by personal stories, literature, education, economic conditions, cultures and upbringings.

This remarkable eassy definitely goes a long way in helping one take a stand on the entire idea of feminism.

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This book blatantly displays the deep dysfunctionalities prevalent in an Indian family. It effectively portrays our inherent capacity to be openly bourgeois and unapologetically so.
The book strikes a chord because it speaks of the deep-rooted problems that exist in the way society associates honour with caste and unabashedly displays the carnal desires of men and women, caste and societal norms notwithstanding. 

This wonderful piece of literature craftily tells a sad story very hilariously. It’s complex and overwhelming. And I’d love to go back and re-read this book a million times over. 

Redrawing India by Shaheen Mistri

This book is an account of the various experiences that the cohort of the Teach for India Fellowship have had, in addition to the story of the inception of the whole movement.

The stories are inspiring, heartbreaking and endearing. All at the same time. The book gives you a clear view of the problem of educational inequity in our country and makes you rethink the entire premise on which the idea of education is built. It confronts you with the bitter facts about the millions of girls and boys who don’t get to dream of becoming writers, doctors, journalists, lawyers or teachers, like us because they have no access to education.  

Personally, it made me realise that I have been extremely fortunate to have the privileges that I do. An education, a job, the comfort of exploring various career paths, and most importantly, a roof over my head. And it also reassured my faith in human beings who are willing to go out of their way and help eliminate the idea of educational inequity in the country. 

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Morteson 

This book taught me how a little belief can go a really long way. 

This book is the story of an American mountaineer and his quest to bring education to the most remote villages in the north-west frontier province of Pakistan. The book gives a clear picture of his journey from building his first school in Pakistan to building more than a hundred schools, across Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

This book inspired me and gave restored my faith in the undying human spirit and belief. It helped me understand that when one believes in something with so much conviction, one will go to any lengths to prove it to the world. For me, it provided with a whole new idea of philanthropy at large. 

The book is undoubtedly a remarkable account of the story of a wonderful human being, who gave up so much of his own life for the betterment of thousands of children who lived halfway across the world from him. 

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Learning to let go

Growing up with an elder sister, I’ve always tried to be like her. I dressed like her, listened to the music that she did, read the books she did, tried to do everything that she did. Never wanted to miss out. And I think that’s how my fear of missing out on things began. 

Ever since, I’ve tried a whole range of activities, without pausing to think whether or not I want to do it. All because I was too scared to not do it. I’d feel a rush of anxiety whenever I wasn’t trying something new that others were. This deep, unsettling feeling that I was missing out on something, would creep in. And eventually, I’d give in and try it out. Repeatedly. Although I knew deep down, that I’d never pursue said activity. 

Granted, I’ve tried a bunch of pretty epic things. But I can’t help but think of how I’ve gone out of my way to try these things. I’ve been in deeply uncomfortable places, at the least suitable times; just to try something someone else was. 

I have gradually grown to realise that it’s completely okay to let go. For multiple reasons of varying importance. From sheer lack of interest to lack of time to making certain other things a priority. I have tried to limit going out of my way to try something just because it is someone else’s idea of fun. And in the process, I have discovered things I genuinely enjoy doing. Discovered the music I like, the kind of clothes I like to wear, the kind of people I like to keep company of. 

I believe that this is a process of self-discovery and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I have found peace in the fact that I cannot be at multiple places at the same time, and I cannot please every human being I meet. I’ve also realised some of my quirks, along the way. For instance, I realised I’m a complete chai person, I absolutely enjoy old Hindi music, I’m a total sucker for spoken word poetry and that I love dressing Indian. 

Letting go of other’s idea of what life should be like and therefore discovering my own idea of fun has been a rewarding experience, to say the least. It’s brought me immense peace and it has helped me control my anxiety as well. I am so much more at peace after I realised that there is nothing wrong is embracing your true self and letting go a little.