sau (100) kitabein

A friend of mine and I have taken a pledge that this year (starting July, 2013) we would read 100 books (at least). It is not a rigid rule, we just feel that if we aim that much, we would reach at least somewhere close.

Reason: We spend more time on facebook and other social media websites than we do in actually concentrating and reading any one thing. It is true, my attention span has actually decreased over the years, in fact I could not recall what it was to get passionately glued into a book and not being able to leave it for anything. I have gotten greedier with internet, I open more and more pages, download more, accumulate, but do not register as much. I have widened the scope but have reduced the depth of my knowledge.

Earlier I was a voracious reader, and would savour some lines for many days, today I read and forget. I don’t want to put the blame on particular technology, perhaps it is the fact that I rush and rush as if these web pages won’t open again.

I found it difficult to begin with, I have so many books to read, I would start one, leave it midway,start another and so on. I finally decided to just pick an easy read.

1. I read a book called “The Dalai Lama’s Cat”, written by David Michie. I was tempted by the title, it got me curious, a cat’s perspective on spirituality? a newer vantage point? I found the book to be slow in the beginning, mostly predictable and a very slight attempt at telling the story through the cat. Nevertheless it was devoid of the heaviness of many such books and touched upon issues that I could truly relate to, things I face every day. I relished the fact that it spoke of spirituality not as a fragmented approach, rather as a practice in daily life, in whatever you do. It made me want to seek happiness from within, wherever I am. I won’t exaggerate to say it changed me forever, but there are moments when I am reminded of situations people faced in the book, and am able to learn from it. I think this book comes alive after you have finished reading it, it stays with you. Its simplicity then becomes its asset. The book cover is beautiful, it is serene and simple. I liked looking at it.

Image : Google

Image : Google

2. This was followed by “Pigeon English” written by Stephen Kelman. I am in a stage where I am experimenting with different genres and authors, developing newer taste.This one was a different stroke altogether. It made me feel the negativity through the innocence of a child. It gives you a child’s perspective (Ghanaian immigrant in London) on gang warfare, a non simplistic, complex view of it through people, their lives, their relations and hierarchies, their needs, the poverty and paradoxes they deal with. Even though I found him compelling, I was not at ease throughout the book, because you could see what was happening, you could see it coming, and when the book ended, I was very unsettled, very disturbed, yes it is an empathetic account meant to make you realize what it is to be where he was. What did not work so much for me was the juxtaposed view of probably the pigeon. At times I rushed through it, but this is a very personal choice.This novel was also shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.
Some wikipedia info: “. The book became a bestseller, and has featured in a national campaign launched by the National Literacy Trust and the Booker Prize Foundation to encourage prisoners to read.[4] It is also widely studied in schools and universities…The novel is being adapted into a play by Fringe First winner Gbolahan Obisesan. The play is a co-commission between Bristol Old Vic Young Company and National Youth Theatre, and is directed by Miranda Cromwell.[5] The play will perform at the Bristol Old Vic and 2013 Edinburgh Festival”

I like the cover, the sneakers are an integral part of child’s perspective and how he grapples with harsh reality of death along with desires and fantasies. I however feel, that the one with the pigeon is more justified considering the parallel narration by the child and the pigeon.

Image: Google

Image: Google


3. This was followed by one written by an author I truly admire, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie. Respect!
I think this novel is most addictive, I read it when in auto rickshaw, I read it standing in queue, I read it in the washroom, well practically everywhere. I love the fact that it deals with academia too, most relatable, most empathetic, witty at places, but most of all, a very human take on migration, relationships, change, love apart from lot more. It seemed very real, very strong, and as always with her books, it is a compelling narration. I do no justice to it with what I type here, I am glad I read through it, I am glad she writes.If you live in US please read, if you do not live in US please read, if you are into academia please read, if you are not please read, if you are young please read, if you were young please read, you got it!

Image : Google

Image : Google

4. I was gifted the fourth book by my childhood friend, Niyati. V.S. Naipaul’s “A house for Mr. Biswas”

This book wasn’t easy in the beginning. I was at times moved, and at times repelled by Mr. Biswas’ tragic life. However once I was halfway through, I was at one with the book, with the narrator, empathising with his pain, his irritation, his sense of loss, his obsessions, his indifferences, his desires. I then began to feel the extent to which I had been drawn into it and realized how those minute details provided of structures, individuals, their psychology, their relationships, the spaces, the moods, how it evoked images in my head and made me visualize Trinidad, The Tulsi Family, Mr. Biswas’ relatives. I could imagine the bread with salmon, the cafe where he agreed to go and see a house, even Mr. Biswas’ photograph in the Sentinel.

When I closed the book, I wondered how unfair it was to Myna, to Kamla, who were almost non-existent, but then this was Mr. Biswas’ perspective, and he chose to focus on Anand and Savi more than the others.

I am still in the book, I am yet to move out of a person’s lifetime, the people, places and history surrounding him.

Google Image

Google Image

Google Image
Google Image

I am updating after quite some time, and am already aware of the influence of time on my memory of the following

5. “One thing alone does not exist — oblivion.” Quoting from Borges’ poem “Everness”  Anita Mazumdar Desai’s The Artist of Disappearance, is a collection of three novellas, which are marked with the presence of an impending loss, but never really reaching that state.

Be it the museum, Ravi’s hidden art in nature or Prerna’s favorite author from Orissa, one fears the loss of that museum forever, one fears the loss of that secret garden, one fears the loss of those stories in regional language. There is a resonance of a thought, that the new might take over the past, but it is not established throughout.

Some of the descriptions were beautiful and I savored those slowly. The details of prerna Joshi, her lifestyle, her thoughts were brilliant, i can very well imagine her, relate to her, so was the characterisation of Ravi.

The contrasts between the characters in the three novellas were stark yet relatable.

This is the first time I read work by the author and look forward to more.

Image: Google

Image: Google

6. Flame: The story of my mother: Shahnaz Husain , written by Nelofar Currimbhoy

This was an interesting and very quick read. Written simply with the nostalgia, love and encouragement a daughter would nurture for her mother, it was a moving picture of a woman’s struggle and her successes. I parts I felt there was more of a daughter and less of an author, and in parts I felt it was beautifully descriptive. In the case of the former, the free use of adjectives at times spoilt the read for me, in those parts it seemed too fantastical, almost a hyperbola.

Nevertheless I think I found it tempting to complete as soon as I started.

I think the cover plays an integral role here, it does create an aura. I have always found Shahnaz Husain slightly mystical. I have also judged her without knowing her, as if there is an incredulous aura surrounding her, her panache for beauty. However post reading the book, I did find some of my earlier thoughts to be lacking any grounding.

I am probably the last person to go to a salon, definitely not one of those who are very agile with beauty care, however I found it very interesting to learn about her, why she got into her stream, the professional willingness and strength that she carried with her glamour, I enjoyed reading about it.

Image: Google

Image: Google

7. Half of a Yellow Sun


Chimanda Ngozi Adichie


8. and not 8.

I started Leela’s Book by Alicia Albinia, I am sorry, I really could not go ahead. i am tired of wannabe contemporary rendering of Hindu mythology Gods. Secondly, the weird entanglements of the characters were just not interesting. I know I am being harsh, that is because I am terribly disappointed.

8. How to get filthy rich in rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

This was gifted to me by my father on my brithday, truly unputdownable. What pace, what wit, it is wicked at times and at times I felt it was almost tragic in what it depicted with cunning ease, I loved it!

9. A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

Greatness I say, was completely engrossed, could not let go, just could not let go! it was so exciting and how smartly woven!

10. The Illicit happiness of other people by Manu Joseph

In the beginning I could not decide, of course I could relish certain parts, sarcasm here and there, the ease with which characters were portrayed, but towards the middle it gave me goosebumps, I know these people! I know that your mind can do this! I perhaps know Unni!

A friend of mine asked whether it is a must read, I don’t know, it disturbed me a lot and it stays with me, it always will, yes perhaps you must read and then we could discuss 🙂


Fun Books

I cannot imagine my childhood without books. I was fortunate enough to have been surrounded by a wide variety, ranging from classics to comics, from illustrated children’s books to thick books with text in english and hindi.

But this post is not about my books, this one is about books for Amaila, my niece.

I want to ensure that my niece does not miss out on the experience of books, later its her own choice.

I often visit this bookshop at Nehru Place, Delhi, which sells some gems as second-hand books.

Some of these books are very interesting and engaging,hence I decided to share some pictures of those books.

Here goes the first one:

Poke-A-Dot book

Poke-A-Dot book

See those dots? You could poke them and count as you do that!

Count as you Poke: photograph: poornimasardana

Count as you Poke: photograph: poornimasardana

The touch and sound feedback is just brilliant and also addictive. Reminded me of bubble wraps but these are much sturdier and provide endless poking. Once you poke from one side, turn the page, and poke it back from the other side! It is an exciting incentive for children to begin to turn pages, which are thick enough to turn with ease.

Turn the Page to Poke: photograph: poornimasardana

Turn the Page to Poke: photograph: poornimasardana

My niece, who is an year old, got so excited when she used it for the first time that she decided to sit on those and check if that created the sound as well.

Poke-A-Poke: photograph:poornimasardana

Poke-A-Poke: photograph:poornimasardana

She does not get bored of it and the wear and tear shows how much it is used daily. It has been good fun for her. My mother has come up with an interesting story to narrate as she turns the pages.

In case you are looking for something to help your child engage with counting, this could be an interesting buy.

Also, more than one person can poke at a time, it becomes a sort of game, but warning, my nieces almost fought in the competition to poke more than the other.

Here is a link:

Comics Love- experience with the World Comics Organization

I love Comics, I think everyone should. I love the medium and wish to experiment with its form and functionality.

Having graduated from my fellowship in Science and Liberal Arts, I had some time before I started with quantified and mass acknowledged productivity –  “job”.

So I decided to volunteer with the World Comics Organization in the month of June. If you are hunting for work to silence inquisitive aunts and (very) concerned friends, I am sorry, this probably isn’t the genre for you, however, if you are wanting to experience sincere efforts at giving voice to the subaltern , this probably is a space you would appreciate.

I do not think I would do much justice at introducing World Comics for there is much depth to the organization and work, perhaps you could go through their website and engage with what they mean by Grassroots Comics and Comics Journalism.

To me what matters the most, is that they have managed to take comics to people in their everyday lives, and have enabled them to tell their own stories, in their own words and images.

Sharad Sharma, the founder, has maintained an archive of all these narratives, which I truly feel are a brilliant account of narratives ignored in prevailing media and stereotypes. Moreover, I sincerely feel that this methodology reduces a researcher’s bias and could definitely be an innovative methodology to be used in ethnographic study. In fact, in my upcoming projects, which require ethnographic study and community engagement, I intend to conduct workshops with the communities I work with, to create comics wallpapers and to create a forum for sharing stories, perspectives and history.

Some of the important points that stuck to me through my interaction with the organization:

1. It is actually great fun to work in collaboration towards a common goal. The task of creating 28 panels out of two comic books for an upcoming exhibition, involved four people, two who had created the original work, and two who re-used and redesigned panels to be exhibited. beginning with a simple layout, we quickly developed an understanding of each other’s styles and managed to pull off a harmonious set. Devendra and I have a rough style which was given that subtle finality with Sharad Sharma’s eye for details, something I am still only attempting at achieving on my own. It was brilliant to see how after the panels were designed he went through those and introduced finesse with a blurb here or a patch of color there, it was very interesting to see hsi play with text as image.

I often wonder how did they manage to run an entire foundation through only volunteers, I think the most critical aspect is to respect every person and every task, be it making Chai or photo-copying or training people in making comics. Also, to acknowledge every person’s opinion and agency, is not just humbling but also encourages healthy dialogue and willingness to co-operate.

2. At times when lots is to be done, rather than thinking too much, dive deep into it, and just keep doing bit-by-bit. I know it sounds so obvious, but generally that is exactly what we don’t do. At World Comics there is too much positivity and constant work being done, no one stops, everyone is on to something and happily so. It inspires you to just get down to the task (at least as long as you are inside the studio). I think, the fact that Sharad Sir sat on my head, and sort of politely disciplined me into coming up immediately with a simple, neat layout was a great help later. I have faced this paralysis of ideation many-a-times, it is good to have a basic vision, but then explore as you are into it.

3. It is important to understand the purpose of the exhibit, what is to be conveyed, so that the content could be aligned. It is almost a curatorial procedure, ha! you mocking us? go see the number of illustrations and text, it can be tough to choose from such a huge pool of data.  It is very important to be strict when filtering it. Everything looks great, but the idea is to only put as much is enough and appropriate to summarise the larger message in the books. Of course the audience plays an important role and has to be kept in mind while doing so. We did not have much time left for editing though, and that is a learning for next time, particularly for text, it could have been much more simplified.

4. Umm, for all my faux dislike for MAC, I think I had fun using it :). Also, have overcome an inexplicable dislike for photoshop.

5. We played with colors and I think it worked well. So the idea was to start and end with violet and have continuity in panels through the color transition. A coincidence was that green came during the panels clarifying myths on Islam, so then we managed to place RSS based panels in oranges which though was stereotypical we still greedily delved in it in order to assist the audience in relating to the context better. It was interesting how these colors could break the monotony  and assist movement of eye, while the layout and transition kept a uniformity. The titles were kept in contrast with the background, while the bubbles of successive panels had colors belonging to the family of its preceding panel.

6. I think, the organization being quite democratic and liberal, I felt confident in the choices I made, and also learnt quite a lot from feedback, slight shifting of image, a little variation in the tint, adding some data in empty space, playing with layers, creating every panel as a composite whole, it was good fun to see the project complete and exhibited.

7. Great printing can be done at small press, some hidden gems in Delhi.

8. A great cartoon with black gel pen could be given various manifestations later, hence do not disregard a simple process of creation.

9. Last but not the least, to work with time limit, to keep it simple.

Some photographs of the exhibit displayed at India International Centre (IIC) Annexe, New Delhi (10-14 July, 2013):





photograph courtsey poornimasardana2


Exhibition by :World Comics India

Books by :Ram Puniyani, Sharad Sharma