What I Read Beyond Academics Last Month
Sweet are the uses of adversity, said Shakespeare and not mistakenly so. Although for no happy reason there was the imposition of back-to-back lockdowns, it certainly locked some happy hours amidst letters. With the prospect of not having to travel between the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, as I would have done on normal working days, I was finally looking at some of the thickest volumes in my library a few of which were vying for my attention for long where as a few others making me uncomfortable like a snappy spouse muttering every now and then “someone else might have known my worth for sure.”
A very dear colleague recently shared a pack of 10 Robin Sharma bestsellers taking me down the memory lane to the turn of the century when I first read Sharma. After seeing the collection I suddenly recalled that I had been keeping Sharma’s latest book with me for almost a year though had hardly ever got time to read. Some other book always won the contest between this and that. It was Robin Sharma’a THE 5AM CLUB with a beckoning subtitle “OWN YOUR MORNING. ELEVATE YOUR LIFE.” Sure the subtitle did not immediately compel me to join ‘the club’ but it enthused me to complete reading the book within the next two days. Like all other motivational books in the Monk Series as it is popularly known as, this too had a story-telling tone which helped the pace. I always believed that one should simply understand one’s biological clock and make the most of it. I thought it was perfectly alright to be a night owl instead of striving to become an early bird. However, Sharma made me rethink so much that I have reset my clock. But not yet 5AM, Mr. Sharma. Sorry.
Although I have downloaded scores of them, due to professional obligations, I could read only one, i.e., The Book of Joy, a dialogue between two of the greatest spiritual leaders of the present time, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu accurately summarized by the narrator Douglas Abrams. Most of the lines in this book coming from the two Peace Laureates read like quotable quotations. It was undeniably a ‘book of joy.’
The Novel I Read:
The Black Hill written by the Sahitya Akademi Awardee, Mamang Dai, is what I had picked up last month in fiction, to be specific, novels. In fact, this is the book which fetched its author the award in 2017. I started reading the novel because one of my PhD scholars is working on this author, but the book is so well written that it never made me realize I was performing an academic task. With that onus one carries in mind, one is not supposed to enjoy reading a text but look critically at it for the technical aspects. However, once I was through the first few pages I knew the book is going to be engrossing. Dai’s sheer gift of language, the handling of suspense, the mesmerizing setting of the novel, the historical context among other things made it impossible for me to give it a disenchanted reading. I know I have to read the book again for the purpose of research which would be a very different reading then, but, at least, for the time being, the passionate reader in me was gratified.
In Short Stories:
In fiction, short story is a genre closer to my heart than novels. The collection I chose to read/reread last month was Oscar Wilde’s Complete Stories. In fact, when Dr. Achyuta Samanta (our Honourable Founder Sir) asked his followers, “Which book are you currently reading?” on Facebook on the World Book Day (https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=2803735593068709&set=a.703153843126905), this was my reply. What I could not mention there was Wilde’s ability to be relevant to people of all ages, his witticism and his literary craftsmanship. When I read Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” during my school days, I was yet to know the life and times of Wilde back then, and so it was a simple tale of friendship between a bird and a talking stone (Alas! Childhood has a curse on it to be valued in retrospect!.) After years, when I read it last month, I could easily recognise it as a socio-political and sexual allegory. All the stories in this book are extremely moving and powerful.
Poetry? Oh Sure!
Just to get a feel of contemporary poetry, I often read poems published online in a popular site, i.e., poetryfoundation.org. There are poems on a wide range of themes. I often read the “Poem of the Day”, because it is almost always a remarkable piece and gives one a fresh feel. It lands in my Mailbox everyday since I have subscribed to the newsletter. Not only one can subscribe to the newsletter for free, but also one can enjoy reading various collections of poems as well as poetry written by the masters of the craft over the centuries. Those who want to see some good poetry on their phone screen, here is the link https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets). Even audio poems are available for those who would prefer listening to reading. Poetry indeed lets us “Begin in delight, end in wisdom.”
As the month of April was giving way to the next, I had in my hands JK’s Krishnamurti to Himself, unfinished then.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to KIIT School of Management, KIIT Deemed to be University