Sunday, June 18, 2017


When I started blogging seven years ago I used to write much more often. Over the years the number of posts have dwindled, and I can offer no better excuse than to admit rather shamefacedly that I have grown lazy. However, in my defense, I do write in a couple of other places on the Internet now. And seeing as I still apparently have a number of faithful readers who seem to wait for my posts even when they appear only about maybe twice a year, I think they might enjoy going through  some of my writings in these other sites. I will probably link them all here, eventually. For now, I will start with my Goodreads reviews. I discovered Goodreads many years ago, and I must say it is a useful website for those who enjoy reading. They let you keep a track of the books you are reading, have read, and want to read in future. I've even found a couple of good recommendations via Goodreads, which is saying something since I already have Dad and his vast personal library. I have lately taken to reviewing each book I read on Goodreads, partly so that I can come back to these later, and partly to keep up my writing habit. These reviews are between two-liners and a few short paragraphs, so all serious reviews are still kept as proper blog post material. Still, I think some of my readers will enjoy reading these short updates, and hopefully discover a few books that they want to read themselves.

I am not one who worries too much about readers' comments in general, but for these book related posts I will break with tradition and urge you to comment. I would love to hear from anyone who has already read these books or even plan to anytime soon. Do drop in your thoughts, even if they are just a line to mention when or why you read these books, what you liked or disliked about them, or if you have any book you might want to recommend to me, or anything at all that crosses your mind really, as long as they are book-related thoughts!

A Room of One's OwnA Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the greatest pieces of feminist writing of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own should be on the to-read list of everyone who wants to get a balanced, well-thought-out feminist point of view on women's intellectual life preceding and up to the early 20th century. As somebody who rather dislikes much of the so-called feminist ranting that is so rampant all over the internet today - ranting that reeks of privilege and misandry and showcases very little commiseration to their truly oppressed sisters - I found Woolf's writing not only refreshing, but greatly enlightening. The book, an extension of a lecture titled 'Women and Fiction' delivered at Newnham and Girton, explores the very many interpretations of the title; the myriad meanings and interpretations that 'women and fiction' can hold fascinates the author and gives rise to a chain of thought where she explores women's intellectual lives - real and as represented by men - over the centuries. Starting out with examples of the widespread barriers to women's liberation still very much present in contemporary England from her own experiences in Oxbridge, Woolf goes on to talk about the overflowing of literary opinions about women and their activities as expressed by men and the unfortunate lack of women's writings till before the 17th century. She explores the contributions of early playwrights like Ephra Behn and the effect her courage and enterprise had on later generations of aspiring women writers. Moving on to the 19th century, she compared the relative skills of Jane Austen, the Bronte sister and George Eliot, commenting on how their oppressive prospects often marred their geniuses. Eventually the conclusion she reaches, or rather, an idea that pops its head every now and then throughout the narrative, is the idea of economic emancipation of women as vital to their creative proliferation. And so the idea of a room of one's own and 'five hundred pounds a year' come alive in their urgency.

The narrative is a wonderful read and a delightful study in stream of consciousness. I might even go so far as to say that this surpasses The Old Man and the Sea in that respect, though it may be unfair to draw a comparison between works of so vastly different subjects. It is a page turner in its own way, and at a hundred odd pages, this can be finished over the weekend or even one long evening if one puts one's mind to it. This is a book that should definitely not be missed.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Yesterday was the first official day of my summer vacation. I say first ‘official’ day because we have been on vacation since end of April for all practical purposes. Classes started dwindling since mid April and eventually got dissolved by early May, and after a brief ‘study leave’ our end semester examinations started on the 17th of May. I use the important sounding name – end semester examination – out of habit and to lend some gravitas to the situation. In reality, there were examinations on four days. Yes, just four days, and yet it had to be spread out across nearly three weeks. I have to give this to the private schools across the country, for all their endless problems and shortcomings they do usually manage to get over with examinations within a week or two, and that with nearly a dozen subjects on average. What does this say about our ‘elite’ public universities, and our national psyche in the matter in general? If there was ever a social decision to function according to the very antithesis of the ideal of “do it now”, it is the principle that guides our nation.

Examination days leave me feeling unsettled. I don’t think this has much to do with my level of preparedness. Even when I know that I have worked hard throughout the year and only unforeseen disasters could possibly make me fare badly in the paper, I cannot help feeling jittery and restless. I have a definite point of saturation beyond which I cannot revise, the words bounce off my head without making sense to me any longer. And yet I cannot concentrate on anything else either. Examinations seem to put my life on hold; they make me feel like I am in purgatory. If I ever have to spend any period of my life solely focused on preparing for any examination, I wonder whether I will be able to do it. I seriously fear that I will crack under the strain of preparations and revisions long before the actual tests come up.

As I walked out of the examination hall on the 5th of June, I realized with a jolt that I had officially finished the second year of my undergraduate course. Come July I will be starting on my final year here, the senior year in the Indian scheme of things. I don’t think the thought has sunk in quite properly yet; it seems like yesterday that I was walking in as the confused fresher who lost her way around the campus at least thrice a week. I look back and I realize the true import of the saying “the days are long but the years are short”. All those early classes with the attractive old professor, those initial days of bonding with seniors, that certain idealistic spark that formed our political inclinations and made us feel good about ourselves, the first tastes of the real world and the quick realization that followed about how inept our generation is at ‘adulting’ – the memories that threaten to flood my mind are bittersweet and each an engaging story by itself. The past two years have helped me grow and embark on a journey of self discovery, and I know I have only just started. I have a lifetime of exploration ahead of me, and that is one exhilarating thought.

Jadavpur has been home to me in ways I could not have thought possible. It has given me what I have always craved for – space. In Jadavpur I can be me, I can function within my own tastes and preferences without worrying about any external restrictions. I can be mad or composed, well turned out or bedraggled, a bookworm or a social butterfly, or an alarming mix of them all, and still find a cozy nook for myself there. I may or may not find like minded friends, but chances are I will not be actively shunned or made to conform to the tastes of anyone else. In a world that demands standards and norms and regularity, a short sojourn in this haven of disorderly but generally well-meaning people may well turn out to be soothing memory of a lifetime. I have met so many types of people here, strange and outlandish, starry eyed and optimistic, frivolous and forlorn, often quite eccentric. Some of them I have become close to, others I have only briefly come in touch with. A few I hope will continue to be a part of my life long after we have crossed the boundaries of college and gone on our very different paths. These two years have been wonderful, and I hope to have a terrific final year here, but now I am ready to leave. I can sense a certain loosening of ties, a certain longing for newer pastures, an urge to go out and explore. Just as I know that after the end of school, getting admitted to Jadavpur University had been the best option for me, I also know that I need to move on from here for the next step.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about what I want to do next, after completing my graduation. I do not want to carry on with History for my Masters, not because my love for the subject has dwindled, not at all, but because I have almost made up my mind not to pursue a career in the academia. I cannot see myself spending years writing theses and teaching reluctant college goers. I did not take up English for graduation, much to the astonishment of many of my peers, because I felt that reading literature as a part of my coursework will kill my love for it. Lately, I have begun to feel the same way about History as well. There is a sense of restriction that I suffer from; in spite of studying the subject I love I am often not able to study according to my own interests. My coursework needs me to focus on economic theories about modes of production when what I really want to read about is the history of modern Israel. I do feel set curricula suffocate academic curiosity; at least they do to me. I have this little personal joke where I think of my love for history or literature or any other academic subject to be like a man’s love for his mistress, which is based on sheer attraction and not social norms and legal expectations, and burns deep for that very reason. Once I am beyond the requirement of coursework, I feel I will be able to continue reading history as a passion for the rest of my life. In the meantime, I am on the lookout for anything interesting and unusual, anything that challenges my intellect and pushes me to learn. I am ready to go into the professional world and try my luck in different fields until I find something that suits my abilities and temperament.

This year has been a difficult one so far, and I can sense that there are more troubles lying in wait in the coming months. But there have also been many happy days and peaceful days. As time passes I get more and more convinced that life is nothing if not a mixed bag. It is on every individual to make the most of what they have, without worrying too much about all that they don’t. Tragedies will have to be faced, sadness will have to be dealt with, but it really does no good dwelling too much on them. Worrying just makes you suffer twice. And so I have decided to take each day at a time and make a conscious effort to enjoy myself as best as my situation allows. It was with that spirit that I began my vacation, taking myself out to a movie after the examination ended – the last movie of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a fun watch by the way, a fitting end to a successful series – and enrolling on an interesting online course about the ancient Egyptian civilization. I am looking forward to a fulfilling month, a refreshing break before starting out on the final leg of college life.