10 Tips For A Better Life

This post is not entirely an original one. In fact it isn’t even mine to begin with. This isn’t my list . One of the many talented contributors to the mail subscription Listserve had written this brilliant piece when they had won the email lottery. I found these tips so basic yet so profound in their impact on our lives that I felt compelled to share it on my blog. So here goes, 10 tips for a better life  –

  1. Call your parents once a week and tell them you love them. If not your folks, call someone you love. Never underestimate the power of your voice expressing affection upon someone.
  2. Live below your means and work to save at least 20% of your salary. Set up automatic withdrawals to a separate account. Maximize your retirement contributions. It is never to late to start saving and yes, every penny does count.
  3. Little habits make all the difference in life: Stretch & Touch your toes in the shower every day. Brush your teeth. Put your fork down between bites.
  4. Do something nice for someone once a day. The cumulative effect of random acts of kindness are worth striving towards.
  5. Eat less meat, processed foods, and exercise more. Little changes will always add up.
  6. Read more – just not on electronic devices. There’s beauty in focusing some time to shutting off all distractions and reading a book.
  7. Music – Make more music, or listen to more Classical, Jazz, and ambient music. All great genres to help meditate.
  8. Never stop learning: Learn something new every day. Read something different, draw something, cook something new.
  9. Be Optimistic. Before you say or do something, think. Take your time, choose your words carefully, and always be optimistic. This time will never come again, make it count.
  10. Save a life – adopt a pet. You may find that your pet may be the one saving your life.

 

Another Book Read – The Great Gatsby

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll admit the only reason I picked up this book to read was after watching the ostentatious movie adaptation by Baz Luhrmann. The story set in a continent in an era which isn’t very familiar to me did put me off initially. However I’m glad I decided to read this classic after all.

The first person narrative is without a doubt the highlight of this book with Nick Carraway’s observation forming the entirety of the story telling. The book is as much as about Carraway as it is about Gatsby.

Through Nick we traverse the diverse landscape of America from the mundane and boring Mid-West to the Ultra Jazzy and exciting East. His daily routine describes how Americans lived during the age of excess – long commutes from lavish country homes to the boisterous metropolis of New York working in high paying Wall Street jobs. His extended family, viz his cousin’s lifestyle provides a glimpse of how old money lived and how new money – Gatsby, was looked down upon by them.

The book isn’t just about the humans but also about their environment. It’s a great insight into the heart of a country that was just coming out of a world war and reaping the rewards of victory. The contrast of the Long Island landscape against that of Manhattan as well as the purgatory-like region in between is brilliant.

This book was written at a time when language and prose meant something. When the use of fancy words was not a fad but the norm. Reading this book is a delight for those who enjoy such rich prose albeit it can get a tad confusing and a re-read is called for. It’s no wonder this classic is a staple for most middle and high school reading courses.

If you enjoy good writing, simple stories but rich complex interpretations of text, this is your book. At 180 pages it’s an absolute quick read.

View all my reviews

Book Review – Last Train To Istanbul

Last Train to IstanbulLast Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Picked up this book last year with the intention of exploring stories from the Middle East and European regions. The title sold me since I have been somewhat fascinated by the country of Turkey. And the backdrop of the second world war was an added bonus.

The story primarily revolves around two sisters, Sabiha and Selva and their families during the German occupation of France in the second world war. Sabiha is the wife of a Turkish diplomat living in the Turkish capital city of Ankara while Selva is living with her Jewish husband in Paris.

Separated due to a past and by conflicting national boundaries the eponymous train seems to be the only chance of the sisters and the families of reuniting and reconciling their differences. The train also provides hopes for many Jews trapped in German occupied France to return to neutral nation of Turkey and beyond to the promised land.

Apart from the poignant tale of the two sisters and their families, the book also touches a lot on the geo-political situation of the region during WW II. Turkey’s diplomatic situation with the allies and the Axis powers is well explained and that too on a un-boring fashion. We are introduced to a few other secondary characters that aren’t all that important( or required in some instances) but I presume these were fashioned out of the true accounts of Jewish people who undertook this arduous and treacherous journey from France to Turkey via German and German occupied nations.

The writing is very fluid and simple with each chapter flowing effortlessly. I found myself gobbling up numerous chapters in single sittings (A major achievement for me!!) Perhaps it’s the fact that the book is translated to English from Turkish and maybe some of the more “purple prose” passages got trimmed down.

At around 360 pages this is a short read and good one too. The only complaint I would state is the length being a tad too short for the scope of the story that is being told. Especially with the myriad characters that get introduced throughout the book. But the last chapter somewhat makes up for that with a rather touching revelation.

View all my reviews

Book Review – Shantaram

ShantaramShantaram by Gregory David Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Almost everyone I know has read this book. And their reviews have been unanimously positive. Suffice to say that was enough to get me to read this pseudo-autobiographical account of an escaped Australian convict who called India (and specifically Bombay) his home.

Our protagonist (for lack of a better word), Lin, is on the run from the local authorities back home in the land down under and is just arriving at the Bombay International Airport in the early 80s as the story begins. From there begins his humorous, at times bizarre, uncanny and ultimately spiritual journey through Bombay, India and beyond.

Lin’s journey, as penned in the book, spans five parts with forty-two chapters across the slums of Bombay, a village in Maharashtra, shady hotels in Africa, the mountains of Afghanistan and finally comes full circle to an enlightened end at the slums. The experiences he narrates are often interlaced with philosophical teachings as well personal observational conclusions which at times do sound kinda as though he’s some sort of Guru. But if you remove the prejudicial thought from your mind, the experiences do provide some truly pearls of wisdom.

The author bases the anecdotes and stories based on personal experiences and his knowledge of the land is undeniably first hand. One of the elements of the book that really made me re-read certain chapters was the brilliantly detailed description of the geography of my home town of Bombay (Mumbai if you want to sound politically correct!)

Another aspect of the book that made it entertaining (and also run over 900 pages) was the author’s attempt to vividly describe every single character, minor or major, on every page. Barring a few descriptions that were completely uncalled for, this approach does provide a great visual interpretation of the characters you are reading.

At 933 pages, this is no simple read and took me a good amount of time to complete (but then I’m a slow reader!). But the long reading journey will reward you with the experience of an absolutely unprecedented journey into the life of Linbaba aka Shantaram. And who knows, his journey may inspire you to embark on one of your own!

View all my reviews

Book Review – The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall StreetThe Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disappointed.

The book starts off like a Hollywood screenplay and does hold some promise in the first few pages. Alas this isn’t a book about Wall Street! What ensues is a repetition of a series of anecdotes about drugs, hookers and illegal money making schemes of a rather dysfunctional individual.

This is an autobiographical account of trader from the late 80s early 90s yuppie generation who believed the world was his playground and anything that made him more money and brought him pleasure was his for the taking. It’s a rather comical account of his life with some truly bizarre incidents that sound that they were totally written for a movie.

There are a few chapters that deal with really gritty financial dealings and probably only those well acquainted with that world would truly appreciate them. Yep, I did enjoy those portions of the book!

The author obviously is recounting his glory days which he later admits weren’t his noblest. Nonetheless the absolutely insane shenanigans and over the top experiences of the protagonist are kinda too much to handle.

The last few chapters provide a tad relief from the drug infused lifestyle of the protagonist, but not enough to rid you off the sour taste of the remaining book.

I chose to read this book after catching the trailer of the Martin Scorsese movie adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio. So obviously I pictured the talented actor as I was reading this book. However there are a number of chapters in the book where I find it hard to visualise Leo enacting them on screen, but then again he’s a great actor, so who knows!

Overall, I’m kinda disappointed with the book and wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re in the mood to learn how different drugs (prescription or otherwise) can be combined in a perfect balance while you are being given a blow job by a set of high priced hookers aboard a private jet headed to Zurich. On second thought, maybe you’d like reading about that kind of stuff!

View all my reviews