Book Review #5 : DUNE

This was a long read nevertheless an enjoyable one.

The cover is just beautiful and so is the name DUNE

The most fascinating thing about this book is that at no point will you realize that it was written in 1965. There are no remnants of the time during which it was written, left in the book except maybe the names of characters. The book being Sci-fi has something to do about it, obviously, because the whole point of sci-fi is to peep into the future. However, Dune has a certain quality about it that makes it uniquely modern.

For further context, I searched for other books published in 1965. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Harold Pinter’s Homecoming, The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne Du Maurier are some of them, yet Dune seems to be far away from all of them.

The story begins in the water planet Caladan, where Duke Leto is the ruler. Due to politics and upon the order of Emperor Shaddam IV the Duke must now forfeit his home planet and go to the desert planet of Arrakeen, better known as Dune, along with his son Paul Arteides and his concubine Jessica.

From the beginning, Paul is prophesied to become the Kwisatz Haderach, a supreme being who will change destiny (like always). His mother Jessica is a part of an elite league of women, called the Bene Gesserit, who possess superhuman powers. Jessica had been passing down all of her training to Paul from a young age with the hope that the prophecy might be true. There are other powerful soldiers like Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, Mentat Thufir Hawat who teach Paul various things.

Very soon after taking up his position as Duke of Arrakeen, Leto is betrayed by his own medical team Yueh and taken to the Harkonnen (rival house) Baron. Paul and Jesicca escape with help from Yueh. From here on the story follows the development of Paul from boy to all that the prophecy claimed him to be.

But interestingly Frank Herbert does not glamourize the role of savior that Paul dons. Instead, he is weighed down by the enormity of his power and his responsibility. This is revealed through peeks into the mental agony and confusion that Paul faces.

There are a number of undercurrents in the books that will reveal on multiple readings I am sure. One of the things of note is the use of different religions like Buddhism and Islam in the book. Another one which famously is the ecological factor which becomes increasingly relevant today. I am sure that if you read all the books in the Dune universe it will make much more sense. For now I am really happy I read this book and hope that someday I will pick up the rest in the series.

Book Review #4:The Girl on the Train

I went through a lot of different emotions while reading The Girl on the Train, but I have to say the predominant feeling was frustration. I wanted to go into the book and rattle Rachel (the alcoholic protagonist) by the shoulders, tell her to stop drinking and get a grip on her life.

I also felt angry and confused. I did not understand why Rachel would not stop drinking. That would solve most of her problems. Later, on introspection, I realized that, I was so used to powerful, capable protagonists (male and female) who are all impressive as well as inspiring but far removed from the real world. Here are characters that are raw, without any cloak of hyperbole.

The author, Paula Hawkins, did a marvelous job of conveying all those emotions exceptionally. She did not at any point say that this was the emotion the character was feeling, however I felt it all vividly.

There are multiple POVs in the story- Rachel Watson, the alcoholic ex wife, Anna Boyd, the protective new wife and Meghan Hipwell, the lost girlfriend. Tom is the husband with a connection to all three women. I felt like all the characters were cut from the same cloth. They are not similar but they are not that different either. Anna seems like the younger version of Rachel (plus the baby) who is destined towards the same future. Scott, Meghan’s boyfriend also appears to be an altered version of Tom himself, sharing the same controlling and dominant nature.

At the beginning, the story delves into the psychological state of mind of Rachel Watson. She conjures up an imaginary life to a young couple she glimpses while the train stops at a station. I thought it was absurd that she would see these people almost everyday without fail, in so short a time frame for her to glean so much about their lives. But then as the story progresses I found that there was a personal connection there.

This slow revelation of breadcrumbs is what I found most fascinating about it. There is not much action, or mystery or adventure, just a slow revelation of information to keep the reader on their toes.

Do you prefer digital or physical reading/writing?

I find that mostly I turn to digital medium because it is easier, more accessible as well as quick but, I cannot get enough of the traditional, old fashioned books, pen and paper.

Regardless of which device you are using to write or read, you have all the information you need and more at your fingertips. You can’t find the appropriate word? You can immediately look it up. You don’t have enough information on a topic. Google it and your problem is solved. It seems like google is challenging you, how much information do you need, how much can you read? Hundreds of articles, many, many books, videos, audiobooks, pictures, journals and more?

Even with all these benefits, sometimes I find comfort in putting pen to paper and scribbling away or tucking myself away at the comfortable corner with a book. The main difference with physical reading/writing, is the feeling I am left with after.

Usually with digital I feel tired, drained. BUT after reading a physical book or writing in my journal or diary, my prominent feeling is mostly a sense of relief, introspection and a little bit calmer. My only regret is that I don’t do it often enough. However, I have improved, along the way i found some ways to make it more accessible like:

  1. If you want to write, keep a journal/diary or any book handy. First and foremost it should be something which makes you feel good about writing in it. For me it is small, ruled journal type books. The traditional diary just don’t work for me. Its too much commitment to write in it everyday and the dates just remind me of the days I missed which I don’t like at all.
  2. If you want to read, don’t download or buy e books when you can buy the physical books. If its not too expensive or urgent, try to limit the number of e books and instead buy the latter. Its a good idea to keep the book somewhere easily visible. This will remind you about the fact that you bought them while a million other things demanded your attention.
  3. Try to use them consciously. Set a routine and carve time out of your schedule to actually use them.

That’s all that I can think about now. Hope this helps.

Image from Pixabay

Do you believe in miracles?

“To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower”

Well, actually I don’t. Nothing miraculous has ever happened to me.

Are people by nature believers or skeptics?

Let me be honest, I am not so big hearted nor spiritual to count everything I see and experience as miracles. There probably are miracles because a lot of unusual things happen on a daily basis to people. But nothing big has happened to me in that category per se.

Nevertheless having said that I have never wanted, prayed or hoped for a miracle.

I have observed that generally if you consciously or unconsciously wish something to happen then there is a higher chance that it will.

When I was young, my school conducted a lucky draw as part of the annual school festival . There were a number of items placed on stage and everyone could buy a ticket for whatever item they wanted to bid on. At the end of the event, they would select by a draw, one person who would win that particular item.

Me and all my friends bought a ticket but none of us wished to win anything. We just bought the ticket because everyone was buying. However my friend’s sister kept saying that she wanted the keyboard, which was one of the items on the stage. And she bought a ticket for it. The whole time till the draw she kept wishing that she would win it and how she would use it if she did. And amazingly she won. She was so overjoyed.

I realized at that moment that her wishing that she would win got her a little closer to actually winning. Life is really strange but I believe, your belief that you can will tip the scales towards its actualization.

I went outside after two months

Road to Eternity

I can’t believe that I stayed at home for 2 months without going anywhere!!! An impossible feat achieved due to external circumstances.

I had to go today, for a dentist appointment, otherwise this self isolation would have extended into more days and weeks maybe months uhhh. Even though it was brief it felt so nice to be outside and to see other people. I did not imagine I would miss complete strangers on the roads, the sidewalks and shops. But I did. And I was happy to see them.

All around the world people have been confined to their homes. Previously nobody would have imagined themselves capable of such a thing. I believe some places around the world have slowly started opening up. Things are looking up. In other places, like in Kerala, where I live, the lockdown is still in effect.

Its not exactly the lockdown I detest. It the non-happening of events, not meeting people, not just going out when you feel like it. Humans= social animals and all that. I understand that lockdown as well as restrictions are necessary so that I don’t contract the virus or worse pass it on to somebody vulnerable.

Hmm.. after this is all over I will probably go out into the world with a renewed appreciation for all the mundane things that I took for granted earlier.

What do you get excited about?

A sunset – New beginning or new end

Life can sometimes be so monotonous that we don’t find anything exciting in our day to day lives. However, there are definitely some things that each person gets more excited by. For some it may be a hobby, some it may be work, a long cherished dream that they want to accomplish, painting, adventures, vacations, food, clothes, shopping, games, the list goes on.

As children we are excited by a lot of things as most experiences are new to us. But as we grow older, ripe with life, our interest narrows down to a few in number.

Along the fast paced path of life, many of us may momentarily lose sight of that dream we saw, wide eyed, in our youth or childhood. To those lucky few who have accomplished it, they have been fortunate. To those who have kept that box of dreams in the closet waiting for the opportune time, guess what, that time may be now.

Why more choices make us confused?

I think living has become most difficult in the modern age. We are constantly riddled with so many decisions. Which movie to watch, what to eat for breakfast which stream to study, which job to choose, what kind of life you want, who is your life partner and so many more… The more we evolve the more number of decisions and questions we face. More number of choices in life do not seem to help us at all (at least not me, I get so confused).

Whenever we as children used to complain about the repetition of breakfast, my mom would say that in her childhood her mother used to make a meal with whatever was left in the kitchen.

I felt bad for her at the time and her lack of choices. (mom’s emotional blackmail accomplished) But in retrospect, I think that was way better. Not only the food, but also in all other areas of their life they, the previous generation, had much fewer options compared to us. It might not have been great all the time but it was probably easier to arrive at a decision. In general, their life seem to be easier due to the lack of choices.

I see two advantages to this

One is that you do not have to make a complicated decision between ten different things. Our brain, the analysis specialist, may encounter problems if given multiple, equally good choices. We always want what is best. But what if there is no single best thing but multiple best things? How do we make a choice then?? Therefore, it is better if we have a smaller number of choices.

Secondly, if something goes wrong, we can simply blame our lack of choices hence we don’t have to beat ourselves down for not choosing the obvious better one.( the revelation that the other was better will only dawn on us some time after we made a choice). I have also noticed that human are remarkably not very good at taking responsibility for everything that we do, sometimes it is good for us even healthier, when we can blame it on circumstances or fate or anything/anyone else we can find, though it is better to not do that always)

Even for the smallest things we have a huge number of varieties thanks to consumerism. I want to buy a moisturizer, so I open a website and there are hundreds of choices all claiming to have miraculous powers. This is a small example of the huge dilemma we face everyday. In these situations, I turn to expert advice mostly on the internet. But those are not available for every scenario. Sure, in the case of products there are ample free advice available but what about other personal decisions that are entirely crucial to our life. Is there enough advice out there personalized to our individual needs?

What was a very difficult choice that you had to make recently? I would really like to know.

Images from Pixabay

Validation has Become an Obsession.

Do we ever do things for our own pleasure and happiness anymore?

Everything we do is for likes and hearts on social media. Even outside of the virtual world, we crave the approval of others just as much. Our actions gain meaning as well as purpose if and only if others approve it. Provided it does not receive the appropriate amount of attention we discard it as unimportant or stop doing it. The younger generation is so much more exposed to it that they don’t realize anymore where they do something entirely for themselves.

This becomes problematic when a situation arises where approval is not granted readily. Like a fish out of water, they will be unable to ascertain the appropriate action to take then.

How can you solve this?

I think slowly learning to do things for yourself is extremely important. The fact remains that your life is ultimately your own and to live it you do not require consent or approval of anyone else. Learning what your likes and dislikes are, irrespective of any external person, will give you immense happiness in the long run. I feel that this journey of self discovery will give a greater clarity about the path of your future life.

I am sure that this will not be an overnight process. It will take months or maybe years nevertheless starting now will take you closer to that goal. So good luck in your journey.

Storytime-A Long Rainy Day- Part 1


On a long rainy day, a figure walked towards the small café, dressed in black clothes and a yellow shawl, the woman was in no hurry. The rain did not seem to bother her. She walked as she would walk on a perfectly sunny day. The pouring rain tried harder as it came down more strongly as if to frazzle her. She walked to the café leisurely. Reaching the shade of the roof, she folded her black umbrella and put it beside the other umbrellas on the stand. As she entered, her eyes wandered to the warm eatables behind the stall. One sweeping look and she headed towards a corner table and nestled into it after brushing off some rainwater from her hands and clothes. A young man behind the counter who had been watching the woman since she appeared from a distance got up and hurried to take her order.

She was a beautiful woman, he noticed as he took her order. He observed how her full lips moved as she said two cutlets and a coffee. He wrote it down on his small notepad and asked if she would like anything else just to prolong the moment. She smiled and replied ” No, Thank you” He wondered why she was out so early on this rainy day. Going back to the counter he began to make coffee. The day had been pretty lean. Rain had lashed all morning depriving the café of customers. Most of the food will be leftover. He could take it home. Two customers who were in the café had been there for a long time waiting for the rain to stop. He did not mind them. The café was better with people in it. He could pass the time by observing them.

He went over with the coffee and cutlets. She was staring out the window, deep in thought. He gently placed the eatable on the table , she did not look up this time. Back at the counter he observed Mr. Narayanan, the college professor, talking loudly on the phone. He was explaining his predicament to the person on the other side and requesting them to take over a class. He is a regular at the café and the young man knew him quite well.