On books and reading

Three years ago, all my reading appetite meant was a few stories in my school English Literature syllabus. I hated Literature of any sort. 

But slowly it changed. When I got into college, I found myself vacant with a lot of time. I had not bought a laptop then. That’s when I started reading. I’m not quite sure what made me do that.

It was a good beginning. But I was slow, not in reading. I was slow with finishing the books I started. There would always be something else easier to do then open a book. Like watching a movie or TV series. Or sleeping. I’d postpone reading forever.

Last summer, I tried to change that a little bit. During the vacations, I started writing this blogs and a few pieces for an educational website. I realized that books helped a lot in writing. I’d always have something to share. 

I also realized that having a few goals, not necessarily strict ones, helped. I’d know how to space out my reading time to finish a book in time. Sometimes it’d be done early, sometimes late. But the deviation was quite even on both sides. 

I also felt that my surroundings often determined my propensity to read. If I had a TV or a laptop or a phone to operate, I’d seldom read. If my book was kept in some shelf where it would be find it, I’d rather check my Facebook notifications. There were pseudo – obstacles to access to reading. 

Carrying a book wherever I went – trains, cabs, lectures etc. helped to increase the access to the book I was reading. I started to reading multiple books simultaneously, from different genres. I’d read in short cycles of, say, 30 minutes to finish a chapter I’d start or to read a certain number of pages. 

I’d even watch movies or interviews of the author pertaining to the book. Those gave me a different perspective of the writer’s mind, how he/she thought of a plot different than I did. I’d read other pieces penned by them on the web. It felt like a big boost to my understanding of the book and of the author.

I’d talk more about the books I was reading. I even did my seminar on a topic related to a book, The Empire of All Maladies, I was reading at the time. I did another of my assignment on  Women’s Movement in India, relating to a book on the topic. 

Many books are challenging book they question my biases, my narrative of events but they are the most interesting. Books have helped me think about topics that I’d never have thought of, in ways couldn’t have otherwise. 

Last year I read 39 books. This year I plan to take it to 50+. I hope I get there.Edit

On Mental Health 

The Brtish Royal Family has started a campaign, Heads Together, to remove the taboo surounding mental health problems.

Watch thiese short videos.

Here Prince Harry, Princess Kate and Prince William discuss the issue.

And here Prince William talks to Lady Gaga –

They surely have followed the example of late Princess Diana.

Harmony

If you could see the beauty of nature…
Its true beauty –

Beyond the bees and the lilies,
The mangoes and the flamingoes,
The ants and the rants,
The dogs and the thick-think logs…

The common infinte processes hiding in plane sight…
That occur in harmony…oblivious to our senses,
That carry us forward each second, each inch…

You would know what I mean.

via Daily Prompt: Harmony

On love…

​Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition. 

– Alain de Botton

Eyes

I look at you, you look at me…
I turn away towards an invisible bee. 

When black, you contrast,
A little too fast,
With the colony white,
While I turn away to an invisible sight 

When blue,
You shine like sapphire,
At the center of a fire,
And I turn away to an invisible hue.

When brown, you intimidate
Like the guard at the gate,
And I turn away like a clueless clown.  

Image Source: https://www.theralife.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Abstract-Eye-Artwork-300×235.jpg

I look at you, you look at me…
I turn away from something I would rather see.

You freeze me, I’m dumbstruck…
You confuse me, I’m out of luck.

I want to adore you,
But unwillingly turn away,
Just know that it’s not true
That I don’t listen to what you say.

You just make me nervous!!

You could make this world peaceful 

Life is short, 

And the world is at least half terrible, 

And for every kind stranger, 

There is one who would break you,

Though I keep this from my children.

Image Source: http://peacefultomorrows.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/two-doves.png

I am trying to sell them the world. 

Any decent realtor, 

walking you through a real shithole,

Chirps on about good bones: 

This place could be beautiful, right? 

You could make this place beautiful.

Excerpt from ‘Good Bones‘ by Maggie Smith

Is ‘economic growth’ really progressive? 

On 12th December 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) was adopted by the representatives of 195 nations at the 21st Conference of Parties of the UNFCC in Paris. With this, there is an explicit recognition among countries about the dangers of global warming. But this has brought up a new mantra of reducing carbon emissions – nuclear reactors. Surely nuclear power does not cause greenhouse effect but does it mean it is safe? Of course, not.

Radiations from nuclear power plants are the most potent source of environmental pollution, both actively and passively.  They are not the ‘peaceful sources of atomic energy’ that energy experts and politicians would have us believe. The unique hazards to life that they pose can never figure in any cost-benefit analysis or environmental impact assessment. It seems to me that we have defined the terms ‘green’ and ‘ecological’ so narrowly in terms of carbon emissions that we have lost sight of other sources of disaster. Do we want COfree air which is laden with radioactive particles?

In the mid-1950s, there was a wave of incessant use of insecticides that swept major parts of agricultural fields. In the human drive to eliminate all annoying insects and pests, harmless or not, we blindly used toxic chemicals like DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor. Surely, it eradicated all weeds. But what followed was swathes of barren fields, ponds devoid of fishes, trees without humming bees and diseases humans had never seen. Would we prefer no insects if that meant no flora and fauna?

Recently, healthcare has become the center of attention in all major countries. With aging populations in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Japan and poverty in Asia, governments – conservative and progressive alike – have been forced to think about this issue. But what we have seen, without any basic ambiguity, is that all governments have prioritized the provision of health insurance to their citizens. Does health insurance guarantee quality healthcare?

With the boom of internet and social media, the dynamics of news has changed drastically. Today, the news is not about educating the public. It is about advertisement and sensationalism. It is about catchy phrases that can get eyeballs raised. Recently, when it was revealed that Fox News commentator Bill O’rielly settled lawsuits of sexual harassment at extravagant sums of money, it was widely reported that advertisers were pulling out of his shows. What was missed widely is that his viewership has soared simultaneously? Are advertisers the metric of a news broadcast?

President Trump recently ordered a missile attack on Syria. While he has been largely lampooned by the media for his unpresidential behavior, most of the establishment foreign policy and national security experts lauded this decision of his. One MSNBC anchor even described it as ‘beautiful’ alluding to the Leonard Cohen lyric – “I am guided by the beauty of weapons”. The irony on Trump’s desire to ban the entry of refugees from this region was apparently set aside. Do missile attacks do any good for the people of Syria?

The five questions are the sort of ‘uneconomic’ questions that we never find answers to in public discourse. And those who raise them are deemed as ‘Luddites’ by the establishment of the times. But a thread weaves subtly through these questions. Nuclear power, pesticides, health insurance, news, and weapons – these become industries over time generating ‘growth’ and ‘economic activity’. They become, in some cases, the defined solutions by elite economists, or in other cases, they become part of our vocabulary. We accept their immediate ‘utility’ without considering their long-term consequences.

And to question this ‘elitist economism’ is considered regressive. And such concerns can be found in ‘progress’ that we think we have made. The 2008 Financial crisis was emblematic of this. The explosion of derivatives market and sizes of banks made them a liability for the population. The human element of banking has been lost on our ‘economized’ selves. Similarly, scientific developments in genetic engineering pose ‘uneconomic’ questions that we have avoided till now.

We have accepted the economic morality of industries for much of our times. People do not matter in these considerations, what matters is GDP growth of industry and hence the economy. In such a society, industries capture the attention of the public much before it has time to address the concerns that come with its tempting products. And when we get some clarity about them, we are too late to rein in the adverse effects of their ‘economic’ activity because such actions then become a perceived political liability. Then, our tail wags our way forward, on an uncertain road to nowhere. We move, but is that progress?