Book Reviews

My Experiments with Truth

Mahatma GandhiAs a college student long ago I had read My Experiments with Truth, the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi. I adored him and his qualities, but could not learn much from the book. This year I read it again. My respect for the great soul went up higher, because now I could see him as a simple, struggling, confused and exploring human being. Yet I could learn so much from his ‘experiments’, including the fact that he mentioned he should not be writing his autobiography while he is alive, because putting down his thoughts in writing will prevent him from changing his thinking or approach later.

Mahatma GandhiYet, he constantly changed his attitude. From being an ardent admirer of the British Raj, to becoming its greatest nemesis; hiding from his father and eating mutton to becoming such a staunch vegetarian that he declined to drink milk (one of the first vegans I suppose!). The beauty is that he never hesitated in admitting all his mistakes, page after page in his elaborate book. Nowhere do we see a hint of self-praise, or description of achievements, from the pen of a person who the whole world recognized as a ‘Mahatma’.

This book I am told is the world’s highest selling autobiography. And I am also told, that despite its highly subsidized price in India, his home country is one where the book does not sell much. What is the lesson we learn from this, can we introspect? After all we get a full day’s holiday on 2nd October to think.

By Ali Khwaja

 

Skills and Qualities for Effective Life

The book, Skills and Qualities for Effective Life, is written by Dr. S. Ignacimuthu, SJ, and published by Better Yourself Books (Rs. 170/-).

Topic-wise tips to improve life for yourself and for others

An amazing author, a Jesuit priest, a renowned scientist in the field of entomology, and a very humble human being – the right person to talk about how life can be made more effective.

The book contains 77 very concise chapters, each dealing with all important aspects of life, providing practical and easily practicable tips and tools. A significant point is that he has touched upon areas where one can improve oneself rather than trying to change the world. For example, he talks about how to make yourself trustworthy, rather than finding out how to trust (or distrust) others. He gives tips on how to receive feedback from others, rather than how to give feedback (read criticism) to others. Many chapters deal with self-belief, self-acceptance, self-examination and self-image. At the same time he shows us how to be a risk-taker, or how to keep trying.

Without in any way sermonizing or trying to preach to the reader, Fr. Ignacimuthu has brought out amazingly good methods to work upon ourselves, to accept responsibility, and to be pro-active in making our life better – regardless of the challenges or setbacks that we may have.

This is not a book to be read and set aside. It can be a bedside companion to end the day in introspection, a breakfast treat to face the day with greater vigour, or a mid-day energizer to stop routine work and think deeper into our life. Practicing each of these very practical inputs can actually bring in a marked change for the better, whether it is a teenager student, or a senior citizen. A must read, must keep, and must keep reading, book.

 

Parenting - The art and science of nurturing

bookAuthored by Dr. Shekhar Seshadri and Nirupama Rao, and published by Byword Books (Rs. 250/-), lives up to its blurb Children are nature’s gift to mankind, and how we raise them is our gift to the world.

A rare book that does not resort to any jargon, balances the needs of children and parents very rationally, and yet goes into the depth of emotional well being. While it draws extensively from the principles of the famous Rudolf Steiner, it also projects the Indian family scenario, with insightful case studies that make the reader sit up and think.

Almost every aspect of parenting, from common issues such as discipline, learning, self esteem to generation gap and sibling rivalry has been dealt with in a simple but practical manner, giving specific tips to parents to handle different and difficult situations. The book also covers adoption, grief, sexuality and value education, which are the need of the hour.

book

This book is a reminder to parents on issues that are known cognitively but often neglected in practice e.g. the importance of touch, respecting the child’s choices, acknowledging unique learning styles, to name a few.

Teaching and giving a good upbringing to kids has been quoted very well – All people are learners. The challenge is to determine the kind, amount and pace of learning that benefits different individuals, whether they are intellectually, developmentally or physically challenged. Every person loves to learn and wants to learn, but with dignity and freedom.

This book is a useful tool to adults who wish to keep learning how to provide better learning and growth to kids.

 

The Human Zoo

The city is not a concrete jungle but a human zoo. - The Human Zoo written by the revolutionary author, Desmond Morris, of “The Naked Ape” (sold over 10 million copies), published by Vintage Books.

The city is not a concrete jungle but a human zoo. - Desmond Morris
Image Credit: Wikipedia

It is almost as though he was a clairvoyant who could see into the future. This book, written in 1969, speaks about the behaviour of human beings in the rat race of urban life. His first book on human behaviour from the perspective of a zoologist had already created immense awareness (and controversy due to religious gurus denouncing the fact that humans can be compared to any other animal). In this book, he writes about animals who live in zoos, and how their natural behaviour changes.

He analyses the behaviour of human beings who live in the urban zoo, or the concrete jungle, confined to their apartments, office cubicles and cars or buses. He has highlighted the many ill-effects of this unnatural environment, and how it has made us move away from our development and growth as it should have been. It is remarkable that this book, written almost fifty years ago when computers and mobiles were unheard of, almost predicts what life would be in the twenty-first century.

Chapter after chapter regales us with facts that we neglect, comparing our behaviour to the behaviour of zoo animals, and shows us where we too are going off the track. With remarkable insight, he explains each of our erratic behaviour patterns, why we imbibe them, and then he gives simple tips on how we need to overcome and move back to a more natural lifestyle. Do read the book and share your thoughts with all of us. Shall we, can we, will we listen to him ...? Frown

 

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