Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review / Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is the second book I’ve read by a Japanese writer. The first book I read was The remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro in my sophomore days in college. Perhaps I was a little too naive to understand the depth of the book which was awarded the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction (1989) that I didn’t quite enjoy the book. 

With the same skepticism in mind, I grabbed a copy from the local book store and set out to read Kafka on the Shore.

My oh my, I was totally blown off.

It was a complete page-turner; I could not simply put it down and I have been consistently late to work for the last few days for staying up late at night just to put it down. I struggled though.

Kafka on the Shore (translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel) is mesmerizing, ethereal and surreal that sweeps you out of your way and leaves you puzzled. 

On his fifteenth birthday, Kafka Tamura (we never know his real name) runs away from his affluent motherless home in Tokyo and lives in a corner of a library in a far-off small town.

Fifteen year old Kafka is laid under the omen of his father, a renowned Tokyo sculptor who tells Kafka that he is destined to murder his father and sleep with his mother and sister. This oedipal prophesy is heavy for Kafka and the story centers around it for him. 

Paralleling the story of Kafka is the story of Nakata, an old man who has the ability to talk to cats. As a child in the fourth grade, while on a mushroom-gathering outing with his class he fell into a coma after an unexplained flash of silver in the sky. When he woke up several weeks later in a military hospital, he had lost his entire memory and with it, the ability to read and write. He lives on the government subsidy and earns some commission from finding lost cats in the neighborhood. 

It’s the story of fish and leeches falling from the sky and a shadowy pimp dressed as Colonel Sanders and an enlightening sex worker. It features un-aged WW I soldiers living in a forest, a transgender hemophiliac, a woman living in the past with an ability to travel through space and time and the unenlightened Hoshino, a truck driver with a ponytail, a pierced ear, and a Chunichi Dragons baseball team cap and how their lives cross each other's path.

I’m not a cat person. However, Nakata’s ability to converse with cat made me give a second thought and it is endearingly written in the book. I developed a love for the old man, Nakata’s character in the book for his innocence, truthfulness, honesty and for his inability to read and write. Of course his ability to converse with cat is exceptional. He was a perfect vehicle to execute the plots which perhaps could have been incomplete without him.

There are many questions unanswered in the book. 
The theory of T.S Eliot’s Hollow Man, Oedipus complex and a lot of symbolic metaphors are sometimes ethereal and makes one ponder until one lets things pass by and sometimes make it utterly empty. 

It filled my head, it consumed me but I loved it. Murakami is reported to have said that his novels are meant to be read again and again, and that it is up to the reader to devise their own thoughts and conclusions. Perhaps I need to read it again to formulate my own thoughts and venture beyond what I need to. 

A brilliant book! I enjoyed it completely. And definitely its one of those 1001 books that you must read before you die. Thus, this quote from the book completely sums me up: 

“The book didn't come to any conclusion, and nobody wants to read a book that doesn't have one. For me, though, having no conclusion seemed perfectly fine.”
                                                                                            Haruki Murakami

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

100 Things I ❤ - Part Nine

Shoot...I'm late by three days. Blame my work and the amount of reading and watching movies I've been doing. From the reading job I've been doing, another review will be up soon in the blog.So keep checking out this space if you enjoyed reading the book reviews here and here.
Also I would like to thank all of you for the beautiful and encouraging comments you have left for the posts on this series which inspired me to continue with the series.

For the benefit of new readers, here is the link to know more on this series. This is the second last post I'll be doing, sad that it's already coming to an end :(. 

#81 Flowers

#82 Smile : It's amazing how a smile can make one look beautiful and straighten everthing up.

#83 Compliment from a stranger : A 10 year old or something kid said he liked my pair of stilettos this morning when I was on my way to work. Kid these days, sigh! But it made my day :).

#84 People Watching : One of my hobbies is to people watch. I love to sit on the top of a place and watch all the people passing by and sometimes wonder what is all running through their head and where they are headed to, what battle are they fighting today...

#85  The feeling of letting go : I'm a nostalgic person so letting go is one of the hardest things for me to do but now that I'm learning, there is a beauty to it. And I'm learning to accept the facts of impermanence in life.

#86 Bigg Boss : I hate it yet I've to watch it. You can understand my love-hate relationship with the show from my comments in this post. Bigg Boss is the Indian version of Bigg Brother reality show. 37 days have already passed in this season's Bigg Boss 7, so please follow the show with me at 9:30 pm BST every night on Colors Television. Let's wait and watch who will emerge this season's winner.

#87 Sunshine 

#88 Writing a journal : Call me old timer, but I love the feel of writing with a pen and paper. And writing a journal definitely helps me take my love for writing to the next level. 

#89 A pair of comfortable old Jeans

#90 Freedom : The present state of mine is definitely what I would call freedom. 

I'd love to hear about the things you heart in the comments below.

[All images are from]

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review / The Book Thief

Set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, Markus Zusak narrates the story of a young girl, Liesel Meminger in a town called Molching and how her life changes after she begins stealing books. The story is narrated in ten parts through the eyes of Death, which gives uniqueness to the story.  
The Grave Digger’s Handbook, subtitled A Twelve-Step Guide to Grave-Digging Success is the first book to her forbidden fruit of reading in WW II Germany. Liesel steals the book from her brother's cemetery and hides it under her mattress in the Hubermann’s home where she lives with her foster parents Rosa and Hans Hubermann. 

Keeping a promise he made long ago, Hans agrees to hide a Jew in the basement of their home as German cities are destroyed by air raids and the waging war. Here, Zusak shows that not every German was a Nazi in Nazi Germany and that there were some who did not worship Hitler like Liesel’s papa and who genuinely cared for the Jews.

Why does Liesel couldn’t stop the strong urge to steal books? Is she stealing to settle a score with life? For the loss of her brother or the disappearance of her mother? One can only know the answers to these questions if you read the book. 

“I have hated the words
and I have loved them
And I hope I have made them right.”

There’s something profoundly moving about the power of words that Zusak brings out so beautifully in the book. The words bring out a heartbreaking story about the strength, love, kindness and friendship of a human race destroyed by one of the most horrific events in history. It deplores human misery yet it celebrates the power of words.

There is so much pain and beauty in this book that it’s hard to put it into words. I’ve doubts if I’m making the right words to capture this stunning story, but I do know that this is a book that has made its stand in my bookshelf and will linger with me for time immemorial. And the book ends with this…

‘I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words so damning and so brilliant.

None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.
All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know.
 [...] I am haunted by humans.
 The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, Pg. 554

After reading a lot of good online reviews about the book and the recommendation from the book store lady, I’m not disappointed. It will be one of those books that I’ll read again and again in my lifetime and garner different meaning from it. I bet I’ll be more amused every time I read it since the power of words in the book is beautifully crafted and because it tells a story in which books becomes treasures. And you cannot help but agree to it.   
If you are a lover of words, or if you have a thing for the study of Nazi Germany or holocaust, I bet you will enjoy this book as much as I did. It’s simply one of those unputdownable books that will draw you emotionally and chill you to the bones. With my heart in the mouth, I’m looking forward to the movie in November. Hope it won’t disappoint my visualization of the characters.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

100 Things I ❤ - Part Eight

#71 Thimphu

#72 Setting goals and working towards it

#73 Reading on a rainy day

#74 Investing in a good mascara

#75  Green Tea

#76 Vintage Shop

#77 Color of sea because it's neither green nor blue

#78 Blogging

# 79 Messy hair bun

#80 Nicholas Spark's Movies

[Image Courtesy]

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What? Nu. 3000 penalty for not submitting a report?

So to speak I’ve been sick lately with the reoccurrence of sinusitis. It gets really terrible when I wake up in the morning. My mornings are full of nose congestion followed by continuous sneezing and teary eyes. You can very well imagine the gross picture. :(   
Unable to bear it no longer I thought I needed some complete rest and called in sick at office yesterday. That’s normally when my boss keep looking for me, when I’m not in office. Sigh, my bad luck.  
But I found this morning that he had a genuine reason to look for me. Who wouldn’t look for me, the default Asset Declaration Administrator (ADA) when he is fined a penalty of one month’s gross salary? I mean how could anyone bear to lose a month’s gross salary as a penalty. 

As if that’s not enough, I was also slapped a penalty of one month’s national daily minimum wage. Gosh, that’s too much….(swallowing hard with eyes rolling), that’s Nu. 3000/- (my month’s grocery bill) for failure to submit a report on Asset Declaration to Anti-Corruption Commission. 

Early morning, my heart started to thump louder than normal and I started to sweat. My head started hurting and I thought my heart was about to burst, scared to face the boss and justify. You know this happens when you’re afraid that your boss would not listen to you. 

I thought I will have a nervous breakdown. God, please not this when I have just stepped into this glorious 27 age just three days back, I thought with eyes closed. 

And the letter sweetly ends with “upon the deposit of the fine, please send us the copy of revenue receipt.” Here, I’m having panic attacks now. I immediately called the dealing person in the responsible office and narrated them the side of my story, basically my plight. They told to justify in writings. Ok, I said and started writing the justification letter.

Heck, you must be wondering why I didn’t do my job. Hmnnn…I agree to that. As known, the Asset Declaration period falls from 1st February to March end annually. Just like the Personal Income Tax, Asset Declaration has been made mandatory for all covered person to declare his/her asset, income and liabilities. Now let me not go into the terminologies and confuse your further. 

Owing to some error while accessing the ACC’s website, our employees could not file their asset declaration online. So they submitted in hard copies. Now as a responsible ADA I was supposed to punch the details of some 500 plus employees in the e-database. Isn’t that a nightmare provided the snail pace of internet connectivity in my office?  
So only after the punching of all the details, the disproportionate asset report can be generated which was supposed to be submitted. I we actually tried punching in the details but it was not working; you see my point, so we left it. Now this penalty turns out of the blue risking my life.

Finally I completed the justification letter and went to see my boss to well...justify and get the letter signed, armed with thick crocodile skin attitude, thinking that I’ll just whisk off his anger and pretend that nothing happened. I told myself, “take a deep….breath, you can do it Rekha!” 

The blue file on my arms with the letter perfectly tacked inside, I climbed the stairs gracefully to the boss’s office, as if I’m there to receive an award and not some life threatening scolding. 

I knocked the PA’s office door and asked if Dasho is in. The PA answered that Dasho is not in. Huh? 

"He’s out of station and will be back day after tomorrow, she said." Goodness, what am I supposed to do until then?Wait and then die?

I’m too impatient. I think too much and I know this will eat up my sleep, my appetite and my thoughts. I’ll be imagining every disaster that’s likely to happen. It’s okay for me to give up my month’s grocery bills as penalty, it’s not that I have enough but I’ve no choice. But what about the boss? His gross salary? 
Holy cow! At least I’m sure I won’t be fired. And will the justification letter suffice?  

I return to my office, sit back and cannot do anything. Except write this, thinking of all the possibilities that is likely to happen the day after tomorrow. As I munch on my peanut butter sandwich and sip tea, I wish the earth would open and swallow me. Am I being such a coward, I wonder? 

When faced with this kind of circumstance, I try to seek comfort in quotes like this. I seriously pray and hope everything will be alright.

Disclaimer: The thoughts are all mine and not intended to resemble nor offend anyone in anyway. 

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