Innovation in India

This is a collection of nine talks about innovation in India.

I read about Mr Arunachalam a few weeks ago. I especially like his story because it shook out a very strong preconcieved notion – that men in India are squirmish about reproductive health -still true but here is man who can lead the way.

In my previous blog I mentioned V Day’s initiative to invole men called V Men. India, we just found our first potential member. I think Mr Arunachalam’s courage in sticking to his invention despite the shrugs and raised eyebrows and the fact that it all started as a way to help his wife is an inspiring and courageous example for men to talk, listen and share.

 

 

 

 

TED Blog

Arunachalam Muruganantham may not seem like the most obvious person to have started a revolution in sanitary napkins — after all, he is male. But in this funny and uplifting talk, given at the TED Talent Search in Bangalore, Muruganantham describes how he is enabling women in India to make their own pads — all as a gift for his wife, Shanti.

“What you did in your early marriage days — you tried to impress your wife. I did the same,” says Muruganantham in this talk, describing how he one day noticed his wife carrying something behind her back. “It was a nasty rag cloth — I don’t even use that cloth to clean my two-wheeler.”

It was a moment when Muruganantham realized that his wife had to choose between buying feminine hygiene products and buying milk. And it launched a powerful idea — that making pads would…

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What to boys/men have to say?

So a friend of mine is back from her short visit home. Another friend from India is in town on a holiday after a business tour. The past week I have been talking, dancing, reading and listening to a lot of about being a ‘woman’. Somethings have been subtle. Some other observations more on the face. But all of these messages were the same. It all had to do with going through life as a woman. On the one hand I nod in affirmation but we have been talking about these issues for so long now. You know, us girls. We talk to each other about our ambitions, what we want to do with our lives, where we want to go, who we want to become, how we would like to grow older, meet someone or maybe not, have kids or maybe not. 

Over the past couple of months this debate has raged over the internet spearheaded by some exceptionally honest and succinct blogs, from the grass roots, from girls who have grown up in these worlds and now find themselves as young women in the same society – nothing has changed.

Which leads me to think – where are the men in this? What do they have to say?

I am not talking about dad or uncles or god fathers or community leaders. I’m talking of your classmates, your guy friends who you have kept in touch with for a long time, guys the same age as us. What do they think of all this, have I missed the tide of dissent from them?

Eve Ensler recently started V Day’s new campaign (well it isn’t very new, perhaps a year or two old) V-Men. The focus up to now is on men from Africa or men from Black and Ethnic Minority groups in USA. So what do men in Asia think? What do Malala’s friends who are boys and of the same age think?

It is funny how I have had discussions on gender equality with my girl friends and cousin sisters. But the only time I remember talking about treating women with respect or about the dynamism between the two genders in India with boys, that is, guy friends or cousin brothers is to do with ‘appropriate’ behaviour. It was when I was given my first orientation to a fact that many of us are aware of – ‘if a boy is a flirt and speaks of a million imagined and/or real girl friends he is a ‘hunk’ and if a girl does the same she is a ‘slut’. Or that if you are a successful woman it is best to stay single, not all men in a relationship are supportive of wives who are more successful than them. It is sad that these are the only conversations that I have heard. We talk about social networks and blogging and all of this technology. With all of this and the exceptional education my friends, family and I have been gifted I can count on my fingers the number of guy friends who have posted articles on women, their rights and empowerment. ONE. This, even including those who are regular bloggers. I understand that not everyone uses social media the same way and that not everybody on your Facebook friend’s list is actually your friend.But I find it very hard to believe that in today’s time, you, the guys on my friend’s list did not once read an article on gender or women or girls that made you stop and want to share it, not to make a ‘happening’ statement but just to say ‘ hey girls! I think all of you are doing fantastic and I am proud to know you.’ 

Of course, you can say this is not representative, that I have a very conservative set of friends from the opposite sex or that there needs to be more elaboration about the context of the conversation.But even after considering all the possibilities of bias you can think of,I have never heard otherwise. No friend of mine has ever reported having heard empowering messages from their male peers. Rather if you are looking for ‘consistency’ there seems only one. Young men between the age groups of 18-30 much prefer to talk about women as objects to be coveted, may I add ‘ Bollywood/ Tollywood/Whateverwood’ style’. Think about it, my sister, our friends and I have been bought up to be independent, take the risk, find yourself alone and you will learn along the way. The conversations about empowerment are not always materialistic, its ‘wholesome’. It takes into account character building as well as career aspirations. The need to be a good human being first and then everything else.With the boys its always about becoming an engineer or a doctor or a corporate honcho. It is about the first cars, the first expensive ‘date’, about what you did with your first salary. Again, no talk about following what you really want to do, taking the leap of faith; no talk ‘about them’. Talk ‘about’ them is actually talk ‘for’ them or more recently, ‘talk at them’.

Boys in the age group of 18-30 aren’t voicing out their opinions on the same issues that infuriate girls and women the same age because they have been socialised, possibly now more than ever to be ‘talked for or at’. When did you last hear, “my son is doing this and plans to do that” when all along he was sitting right there. 

So girls, firstly let us stop and pat ourselves on the back for ‘solidarity’. We aren’t over-reacting or being emotional. That is just a guy’s excuse for his inability to possess good self-esteem. Now don’t tell me I am being arrogant or going with the trend. To you (yes the guy who may be reading this) there is no reason why you shouldn’t be as emphatic as we are about the causes we support or talk about. If anything, your voice should be louder because you have seen first hand the different meanings and connotations of what it means to be empowered.

So if you are a boy/man or whatever you choose to identify as, voice your opinion, speak up when you know that something – thought, tradition, religion, practice etc etc etc is wrong. Be man enough to admit that things can be otherwise. 

 

TED – Videos worth sharing

When I first moved to my new home in Harrow I had to make do with what I had. This seems rather pompous of me to say you would think. But the fact is and may I add this fact I have realised, embraced and which has led me to be grateful is that I was born into home that provided everything in a country where many children often do not have this luxury. From this protected and provided for life I moved out of my comfort zone, at first to study and then thankfully to ‘live’. For me, at this stage in my life, studying and living are tow very very different things with the potential to co-exist. However, this potential depends on the individual and your courage in engaging with its co-existence in a world that is currently working very hard in separating the two.

Television is one such medium that has been classified somewhere within the studying, learning, living, leisure spectrum. I was reminded of my experiences of T.V while I was watching videos on the TED – Ideas Worth Sharing website.

So in Harrow now. The deal was that I got the box room and the kitchen. I could use everything that was in my room and a few things that were in the kitchen. So far so good. Later I realised when you look for accommodation in London it is good to sign a contract and move into a house that also includes an internet package or atleast a land lord who is willing to get that organised. Unfortunately I had not organised either and it turns out the land lady was not keen on organising the same either. At that time, although I was short changed I decided to plough through, for the time being. Later I got the internet sorted, thanks to the availability of Dongles but was still having a tough time in keeping myself occupied. There is only so much one can read in a day and sometimes that too can become a chore if it is not interspersed with other activities. So I tried going out, exploring the city and meeting up with friends. I mentioned this day to day challenge of mine to a friend who suggested that I should check out the TED website. Lots of interesting and inspiring videos to be viewed. Just what I needed I thought, inspiration to keep going and a wealth of new ideas that I may have opportunities to use at work and play. It did wonders to how I managed my free time, something I had plenty of during the job hunting, volunteering and interning days. 

Many thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams emerged from these viewings. I realised I have a fascination for commencement speeches. I found some on the TED website and some on Youtube, some were emailed to my friends and some I recommended to friends. It was the messenger, rather the message of these speeches that sparked the serotonin rush. This was not only a way to make good use of time but a wonder-filled (my new word for the day!) way to make good use of time. 

What messages/inspiring thoughts did I learn? Here a few from among the many that I will strive to remind myself every day.

1. Steve Jobs – I am very proud of finding this speech because it was a good year or so before Mr Jobs passed away. After he passed away it went viral on social networking sites. It felt good to know that I was lucky enough to have found it while he around. I am grateful that I was given a year more than a lot of other people to live the way he suggested. I caught the bus early. It is special because I value remembering people with respect when they are around rather than suddenly realising what wonderful human beings they were when it may be too late. 

He ended his speech with this phrase that was printed on a magazine that he used to subscribe to, ‘ Stay hungry. Stay foolish’. It was their last edition.

All the hours of volunteering, networking and seeking opportunities was sanctioned by someone who did and succeeded. An encouraging message for a roukee in life.

2. JK Rowling – At her Harvard Speech Ms Rowling mentions the success of failure and the role of imagination as one of many tools that will help place yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Important, especially if they are later to be used as instruments to improve.

My favourite line from her speech and that I have often shared with friends when the discussion at the table turns to the current course of our lives is this (paraphrased)- “There is an expiry date for blaming your parents for your life not going the way you would like for it to go”. Personally this quote helps me remind myself that I have a sense of agency and that at 26 it should be at its peak. Now is more than perfect a time to act.

3. Amy Poehler reminded students at her commencement speech in Harvard that while we embrace that agency we don’t have to feel alone. Parents can be your confidents, your companions. So take action, but if you were to fail you know that you will always have a good listener in your parents or whoever it is you seek guidance from.

4. Neil Geimann – Even if the times seem tough, make good art. 

Proof reading.

Is too cumbersome when you have a lot to say along with the urge to write it all down, AT ONCE. I should start proof reading. For now, if you stumble across my blog, read it and later realised you spent most of your time correcting my grammar and spellings, I am sorry. Obviously my brain is not in sync with my typing speed. 

Look on the bright side. You are reading it ‘exactly’ like how I want it to be told. Proof reading can take away the spontaneity that is the need to share, disrupt the excitement. Rather it turns them into well organised paragraphs. For now I am on ‘post -it’ mode. So go with it.

I proof read this entry! A start.

Some more books and book stores.

I don’t think I am yet to fully understand the meaning of the (phrase?), “there is no such thing as a coincidence” but soon after I published my continuing list of books and our journey together a friend sent me a message on Facebook saying he had just finished reading ‘God of Small Things’, the book I had ended my the entry with and that he had a few questions to ask me about Kerala and its culture! So perhaps I should read it now, before I leave the UK. A sign from the universe, that reality check you need when you get too comfortable with now archaic sounding explanations for why things are the way they are. Hint taken!

Continuing with my stories of story books.

The scene so far – Thanks to a friend I found a box room in Harrow. It is perfect for the time being and I am slowly beginning to get comfortable in my London skin. My friend moves to South Kensington which gives me the right excuse and opportunity to visit and stay over at one of the city’s most culturally diverse communities.

Events as they unfold – The day my friend moved to her new home we decided to take a walk around, explore the streets. And we stumbled upon Foxed Book Store!!! I love this book store. It is about a minute’s walk from Gloucester Road Tube Station and has those wonderful wooden book store doors, the kind which has a bell attached to it so that every time a customer walks in, it clinks. Wonderful! Outside on the pavement is THE SHELF. Upper case because everything displayed outside is for a pound. I was ecstatic and bought a gift for a friend and ‘Churchill: The struggle for survival’. I am guilty of reading the first few chapters, realising it wasn’t exactly my kind of historical book and then not finishing it. I guess one is allowed to feel that way. You try to chose a book that will be interesting to read but sometimes you get it wrong. I shall keep aflame the hope that there will come a day when I feel it will be a good read. I wanted to come back to the book store again many a time but could never find my way around to it. I hadn’t paid attention to the way before and only remembered walking left from the residence. But finally one weekend, determination led to perseverance and I found it! It was definitely the plan, to find Little Foxed Books one way or another but it was not all that passionate a search. I suppose unlike other times I just had more time than before!

And the rummaging and the wondering and the agony of trying to chose ‘one or two’ books from too many began. I finally decided it would be these two.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress:  Set during China’s cultural revolution this book was such an intimate read. The cultural revolution, from children’s perspective. Soon after I found the Harrow Council Library I read a book on the Tiananmen Massacre. I have forgotten the name and have tried very hard in trying to find it on Google. I know that the name has Yellow in it! It will come back in time. I like reading books by Chinese authors. There style makes negative situations sound light. You feel the anguish and the pain in the stories but there is always an undertone of perseverance and courage. I don’t find this in South Asian works. I haven’t read many but when I compare how similar situations of communal strife are portrayed in Chinese fiction with Indian, the Chinese always sound more hopeful than the Indian. Maybe it is because I read it from a distance. I have never visited China and perhaps the fact that I have lived in India for most of my life puts me closer to the reality of the situations described and I find it weighty because in addition to the character’s cynicism is my own.

The second book I bought was about the African challenges of Kuki Gallmann and her family in Kenya – Night of the Lions.  Their sense of adventure and courage I admire. A good reminder when you are running low on ‘spirit’. But what makes this buy extra special is that it is second hand and once belonged to Camilla Hyden in Sydney in 2012. I feel like writing my name and 2012, giving it back to Foxed Books. Hopefully its next owner will feel the need to do the same! Another version of sending scrolls in bottles across the seas.

 

Take the ‘Que’

Standing in Ques

It has been three years since I first came to London and I have had first -hand experience of fascination for ques in the UK. There will be an orderly que even outside a nightclub. So I have come to the conclusion that the best things do come to those who wait!

My first que was at the University cafeteria. At first it was a good space to meet your classmates and make new friends. This was much before we realised that the canteen food wasn’t all that great and when you are surrounded by a diverse set of options, one of which is free why bother waiting in line! After introducing myself to my fellow classmates I proceeded to ponder over what I should have for lunch. The cafeteria on that specific day was extremely English – chicken curry and rice it read. So that is what I ordered and proceeded to have luncheon with friends. I never met them after, but still a unique experience because the table was very representative of the student community. A Brit, a South-Asian Brit and an Indian. Yup, I was in for a ‘diverse cultural’ experience. The other time I stood in the que at the cafeteria I was introduced to adding vinegar to your chips/fries. Initially I didn’t take to the flavour. It is certainly is an acquired taste for now I absolutely love it. No one can ever stay away from vinegar for too long.

My next experience of ‘Queing’ was at the bus stops just opposite Waterloo Station. It was early afternoon, way past rush hour, nobody seemed in a hurry but yet there they were. Neat (and sometimes very straight) lines of passengers. It is nice to know that you may not be assured a seat but you will definitely get on your bus without fear of getting trampled under its wheels or stuck between the doors. When it comes to London transportation Qs, there are two kinds. One is for when you need to board a bus and the other is for when you need to board the tube. When you want to catch a taxi, it depends on where you are. At a station, yes, there will be a Q. But if you are on the road, it is surprisingly like anywhere else in the world. You need to be loud and quick on your feet or something that I have found useful is to wait near a traffic light so that you are likely to have more time to find numerous cabs and have more time to get in.

Queing for buses is orderly and everyone enters one at a time. In the tube, everyone creates an ‘illusion’ of queing. In reality you are just standing on the side and waiting for people to get off. This is usually the case during off peak hours. Early morning and evenings are times when the code of conduct is governed by the kind of day you are going to have or have had, your evening plans or how urgently you need to get home to surprise someone. In short, there are no rules.There have been many a times when one or two people try to get in just when people are trying to get out. Some get told off but most of the time these transgressions are excused. In a busy city people unknowingly comfort each other.

I like ques because they have led me to meet and interact with people from all walks of life, I have been given opportunities to experience once in a life time events and have been on the receiving end of good will.

My most memorable memories of queing was at the Olympics. Every time I had to Que at an event, during training, on the shifts I always met with positive energy, an excited face and fellow Games Makers. At one que I was standing right behind an anti-doping squad representative, I managed ques of spectators wearing the country colours and costumes, gave away hi fives and was once even thanked for all the good week we were doing. At Christmas time last year one of the choir boy’s fathers gave my friend and I free tickets to sit right under the dome for Christmas service at the St Paul’s Cathedral. I understood the meaning of ‘inclement weather’ while waiting in a que outside the US Embassy while it was raining, literally! The man standing in front of me turned around and said “so this is what they mean when they say that you may have to wait your turn outside even in inclement weather.” So I put two and two together and learnt something new. While waiting to get into the Olympic Stadium I met a fellow Games Maker and realised that shifts had started months before the actual event began. All the initial logistics were implemented with help from volunteers too. When in doubt about how to get to an underground station after an event I always follow the que. While waiting for my free lunch outside SOAS I heard about the challenge of long distance relationships and how to some people the US elections is not really of concern to them (if the wait is long you can’t help the fact that you may be eves-dropping on someone’s converstion!). I was referred to a lovely book and gifted a coupon for a free hair cut while waiting in the free lunch que.

So I have learnt one thing from my queing experience in London. It is a chance to learn something new. So take the awkward silence, the looking at the floor moments and turn it into an opportunity.

 

An attempt.

At the height of the writing madness, it was only madness, no action as  a consequence of the madness has been undertaken for sometime now. I wrote this little piece on Pushkin – the office cat. Now that I started a blog it is time to include it among all the other stories published on the internet.

 

It was my last day at office. Outside, it was shiny and bright. The sun was at her brightest. She shone on the daffodils, tall roses, plants of all shapes and sizes at her most radiant indeed. It was a beautiful day and made me look forward to a new adventure. Especially since I had read in an email a friend had written me. A quote on it read, “When you are jumping off into the unknown one of two things will happen. One, you will fall on firm ground or two, you will learn to fly.”

I worked at a quaint little suburb in North London called ‘Primerose Hill’. The roads are lined with flowering trees. It is a residential area with many new borns – some crawling, some walking, some enjoying their afternoon siesta in their colourful prams. It is where the new highfliers to the city park their beautiful cars (some old, some very old and some from bygone eras). Just up the road is the corner shop where I often used to buy my lunch and my favourite peanuts. Up the road from there is ‘Primerose Hill’, London’s natural citadel and my luncheon spot for a year. Turn yourself around 360 degrees and you will see all her splendour. Straight ahead you will see the London eye, to the right the old Battersea power station and to the left the cultural and historic streets of East London where our Grandpas may have first come when they alighted their boats at East India Dock.

And in a small house by the side of the rose garden sits Pushy. She is a beautiful cat in her late cat years. Her fur is brown and black and she has very observant green- grey eyes with long black eyelashes. Pushy’s full name is Miss Pushkin Barua. She is a rescue cat who loves mama and papa Barua and her rose garden. When she is not helping us with spellings at the office Pushy tends to her garden with passion! She smells the roses, nibbles on a few leaves and watches her space whilst sitting at a most advantageous spot for viewing her little kingdom, the middle. She especially keeps an eye to see that her territory is guarded. For you see on the other side of the white wooden fence lies Chumsy. Chumsy is a young rescue cat, also from the RSPCA. But unlike Pushy, Chumsy has a great love for the outdoors, especially for her winged comrades on the greens outside. She is gregarious, curious and an avid huntress. Chumsy often visits Pushy’s garden. She sits atop the fence and watches Pushy, who desperate to go out and take a paw out at Chumsy takes to scratching at the French windows that separate her from the garden on these occasions.

On my last day at office Pushy came to pay her customary visit to the office in the afternoon. After a petting session on her chair she jumps onto the computer table to take her place in between the computer screen and myself. She stares at me with her loving big green – grey eyes as if to ask me for a tickle behind her ears and a kiss on her forehead. This time it was special, for after her pamper session Pushy suddenly got up, gingerly crossed over the keyboard and softly jumped onto my lap! It was a momentous occasion! We worked side by side, Pushy often my sole office companion, following the cursor on the screen or just enjoying the warmth radiating out of the screen while I typed and read away, once in a while looking at me as if to say “Keep on Mals I shall watch your back to warn you of the boss approaching while you are on Facebook.” But today there she was, on my lap, looking at me, as if she saved the best for last.  She turned a little tilt, twitched up her ears, looked into this rectangular thing that Marylou was holding and let me have a parting photo!

 

 

Books Continued…….

I started an entry yesterday , actually a couple of entries (it’s probably the first time blogger bug!) about the books I bought while I have been in London and here it continues. Following are brief descriptions of the place I bought the book, why I felt a need to buy the book and where in my life I was when I bought it.

 

4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain, Plain Tales of the British Raj, Animal Farm – As it is often said ‘when it rains it pours!’

So I had moved out of the student halls into a friend’s room while I was house hunting. She used to volunteer at a petting farm and soon I joined her as well. We used to meet at the farm on Saturdays and help sell eggs and a few farm produce, especially the grains that kids used to feed the goats. On one such Saturday the manager of the farm organised a sale of books that were given to the farm by visitors and neighbours so that they could be sold to raise funds for the farm. I rummaged through the mountains of books and finally chose these to be my final selection.

By now I had already moved to my new home. It was a room in a house in Harrow. It was on a hilly road and far away from the bustle of the city. It was a perfect suburb but suburbia was new to me. Back home in India I stayed in busy roads close to the city centre and this was the case while at University in London too. So the silence was a bit too much. So weekends and time helping out in the farm were looked forward to eagerly.

That Saturday was also extra special because after I finished choosing the books I wanted I helped to man the tables for a bit. A lady came by and we started talking and I told her about how I really want to improve my writing and explore possibilities to work and learn in the UK, She stayed for a while and told me to read The Guardian and The Economist to get an idea of good writing and we went onto to talking about chasing after your dreams. It was a wonderful afternoon to get to talk to someone about your fears, a complete stranger, during a book sale!

It was and still is a phase, the preference to read about true stories, memoirs, biographies – stories that are inspirational and dreamy. Again, a very effective coping mechanism. Although I began with fiction as a child I have noticed that I tend to navigate towards true stories. I think it is because I love listening to other’s adventures and imagine how they live, the adventures and challenges they have been through. I find it inspiring. Hence I chose the books I did that day.

They are also special because the books help me remember the manager of the farm and a friend Barry.Was great having met you Mr B and hope you are well where ever you are now!

5. The Glass Palace, Amitav Ghosh- I soon found the local library and figured it would be better to burrow books rather than buying as I was soon becoming challenged for space in my tiny box room. This book was written with such a profound personal touch that it reminded me of times when my mother would tell me stories of her childhood. Once I started reading the book I did not want to stop reading. It had a softness to it that I have not yet experienced in book written by other South Asian authors. And now I suddenly developed a fondness to read about colonial India.  It is scary to think that I relate to these stories when in the ideal world, if things have changed at all I should have been horrified and shocked at what I was reading. The social unrest, the violence and poverty. But I didn’t. Rather it is very disappointing to think that I related to every word in the book and in some instance remember times when I experienced or witnessed some of the prejudices mentioned in the books. All in all it served its purpose. It kept me occupied and the familiar tone of story telling made me miss home a little less.

6. Freedom At Midnight, Collin and Lappier – I was lucky. After a few months in my new home in Harrow and one unforgettable winter as a waitress, unforgettable in the negative, I got a job as a ‘Conference Coordinator’. It was not my dream job but for the meantime it helped me live in the city. Also, the office space was an extension of my boss’s house and so I often had their pet cat for company. Her name is Pushkin and she is the first pet I ever had!  My boss came to England soon after independence and we had many interesting afternoon conversations of his childhood in Kolkata and how he came to study at the LSE in England and of his boat journey to the country. This was perfect, especially as I was in a very colonial mood, reading wise. Although the work was not the most interesting set of tasks to do I had terrific company and that more than made up for the bad days.  My desk was in a clean room and attached to the wall in front was a book shelf. It had books on social policy authored by professors and professionals who worked, were working or graduated from the LSE. You see, for my boss LSE is more than his Alma Mater. She is the reason for his coming to the UK, the reason why he prospered as an independent consultant, to say that the LSE is why he stayed on in the UK may not be too far fetched. Hence the LSE centric book collection. And among those books I spotted this and burrowed it for a few weeks.

It is the story of India’s partition, its trials and tribulations. My favourite part of the story is about an old Sikh man who rescued a muslim girl, fathered her child and went to reunite the child with her mother in Pakistan. Obviously it was written much more articulately but among pages and pages of nothing but stories and accounts of killing, this story was a brief respite.

I was getting over the colonial India phase and wanted to read about the lives of people in other countries, their customs, just day to day living.

I was beginning to like living in Harrow and its pace. Staying far away from the city made me take more initiative in taking advantage of all that London has to offer with a lot more energy. I can say that because now, after moving to a better connected location I haven’t really spent my weekends attending shows or musicals or exhibitions as frequently. I have settled into this lull, I realised I thrive when in a difficult situation. If I am surrounded by convenience I am less likely to get out there and do something. Rather I do nothing.

So one afternoon when I was living in Harrow I was walking past the city centre (a mall) and caught site of a book store. It was the kind of bookstore that sold old magazines, random children’s art and craft books, stationery and a few second hand books. And I began doing something that I enjoy doing, rummaging through piles and shelfs in a book store. And then I find ‘ In The Heart of the Sea’ by Nathaniel Philbrick. Nathaniel is a historian and this was the true story that inspired Moby Dick. I was in true story, life’s journeys mode and this book seemed like gold. I wanted to be told the story of some one else’s adventure so that I could then appreciate my own.

7. ‘ In The Heart of the Sea’ by Nathaniel Philbrick – When I first picked up the book I was reminded of reading Moby Dick eons ago. I remember the book cover. It was a hard copy and the cover interested me more than the book!

This was a wonderful book. It talks about rules, explores the human psyche, shows you what a good leader is made up of, describes how the ocean influenced the lives lived on land and how it all changed. When I started reading the book I was volunteering for a charity called T.E.A.C.H Africa and my team mate was a teacher who is also an outdoors adventure addict. He had previously read the book and mentioned to me that many instances in the story will point you towards understanding leadership. I paid careful attention to what I was reading and yes I found many of those instances.

The story got me thinking of how one’s character can effect the kind of leader you are or become. Yes, this is often talked about but this book provided me the right context. A complex turn of events but the moral of the story is simple and accessible to all.

I often buy books like they are vegetables, usually a lot more than just one. So on the same afternoon I crossed over from a tiny privately owned second hand book/magazine/paper shop into the retailer’s world – Waterstone.

8. Nine Lives, William Dalrymple – When I was in 5th grade – 6th grade I had the best History teacher a student could have. She passionately loved her subject or to me it seemed and still seems like she did because unlike the other teachers of the subject we had later she never told us to open the text book and start reading from page number sixty. We didn’t have to bring our text book to school if we had her class. All we had to do was listen because today she was going to tell us a story. The fact that this method worked is because I can still describe the city plan of a Mohenjodaro and Harappan settlement and in my mind’s eye can still see the pictures of the toys and pots that were unearthed at the sites. And so I love History, I love learning about cultures.

After reading Nine Lives I realised perhaps home is a good place to start. I finished the book wondering how strange it was that here was a historian so in love with India, who lives in India and works on all things Indian and here I was trying my best to get out and completely oblivious to the opportunities India has for me. I think I still think the same of the country but with a slight difference. The opportunities I understand I will have to make and may be a little less obvious than in London, its the pessimism that has changed. Now I have a list of things to see and experience once I am back thanks to the stories in Nine Lives!

9. The God of Small Things – I tell myself I want to learn of people’s lives outside of my own culture but at that time I was still being drawn to stories from places I was already familiar with. I still have a lot to learn of life in India but its ‘familiar’ territory. Also, I often tell friends I don’t like reading books that are very popular. I like reading those that are not ‘well marketed’. But for some strange reason that day I bought this book. I read the first few pages/chapters, found it too depressing and realised that my time to read is not now. In the book shelf it stands now until I feel I am in the right place to read it.

I shall always remember London for its Cafes and book stores. Everyone here hates the weather. It is often said that talking about the weather is a good conversation starter if you find yourself silent with company. I love the weather. The rain, the chill, the greyness, personally to me help me appreciate my cuppa and the book. I have always been one to enjoy reading when it is pouring outside. In India as well as here this has always been the case.

My friend moved to South Kensington. A wonder filled place. The day I helped her move in we were strolling along, exploring the area when we came across the shop! Foxed Books. And outside the shop were small shelves full of books being sold for a pound each. This is very common in book stores in London and my treasury trove.

To be continued