Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Death be not proud

I did not have any idea that it was a gem of a book that I had picked up from that second hand shop.  "Death be not proud"  as the name suggests deals with death and ought to leave the reader emotionally drained and depressed towards the end, but that is not the case.  As the author, John Guther Sr. himself says - "There are other criteria for measuring a life as well as its duration, quality, intensity.  But for us there is no compensation, except that we can go to him though he cannot come to us.  For others, I would say that it was his spirit and only his spirit that kept him alive against such dreadful obstacles for so long - this is the central pith and substance of what I am trying to write as a mournful tribute not only to Johny but to the power, the wealth, the unconquerable beauty of human spirit, will and soul."

For people who love books, this will be a great read, a book which will set you thinking about the ingenuity of human spirit and the great gift that ever day brings along.

SYNOPSIS:  This is the story of John Gunther Jr. who was diagnosed with a malignant tumor of brain and given only weeks to live.  He not only did fight it out for 15 months, but completed his class assignments without attending classes, received his diploma along with his classmates, undergoing all the formalities including a quarter mile walk to church on the day of convocation.  (This is a boy who had just turned 17 and was losing his left side strength and functions).  In the meantime, between the heavily straining operations, he found to communicate with Albert Einstein on "Unified field theory," had serious discussions with the doctors regarding the tumor, the tests, the results and also brought a smile to the face of everyone who came in touch with him, from the liftman to the nurses, doctors, barber, not to forget other patients.

Let me finish this post with Johny's prayer.

                                          Unbeliever's prayer
Almighty God
Forgive me for my agnosticism
For I shall try to keep it gentle, not cynical
nor a bad influence
And O!
if thou are truly in the heaven
accept my gratitude
for all thy gifts
and I shall try
to fight the good fight.

~ John Gunther Jr
May 1946.

NOTE:  This post was written in February 2007 while I was working in Coimbatore. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Chosen

"The Chosen" is a book written by American Jewish Rabbi Chaim Potok.  Since the writer is a rabbi, the book deals extensively with Jewish culture, and one would come across a lot of words particular to this religion.  But what makes this book great is the captivating story that it unfolds.

The story has got 2 protagonists, Reuven Malters, who is also the narrator, an orthodox Jew and Danny Saunders, a Hasidic Jew (Hasidic sect are very very conservative).  Reuven's father, David Malter is a teacher, religious scholar with a scientific and secular outlook, whereas Danny's father Reb. Isaac Saunders is the head of Hasidic sect and comes across as a religious fanatic who is quite angry with David Malter for propagating his secular and scientific outlook as well as later for actively supporting  Zionism.

This is the story of friendship that develops between Reuven and Danny despite their basic differences over several issues.  Reuven is an extrovert, who is brilliant in mathematics and is a good student of Talmud, whereas Danny is an introvert, who takes a lot of time to open up and possesses photographic memory and is very much ahead of Reuven as far as Talmud learning is concerned.

The story is full of conflicts.  There is this conflict of ideas between David Malter (Reuven's father) and Reb. Isaac Saunders (Danny's father).  There is also this conflict between Judaism and the secular American world as both Orthodox and Hasidic Jews are immigrants trying to fit into liberal and secular American culture.  There is conflict between Danny and his father as Danny does not want to occupy the position of patriarch of Hasidic sect, which usually the eldest son of the leader inherits, instead he wants to study psychoanalysis and do research on it.  There is conflict of ideas between Reuven and Danny due to their difference in upbringing.

In spite of carrying so much contrast and conflict, this also is a beautiful story of friendship between 2 boys, and later 2 young men (as the boys grow up), also this is a story of 2 fathers who love their sons in entirely different ways.

This book gave me an insight into Judaism as well as a peak into Jewish mind in the aftermath of World war II and the Holocaust and is certainly the best book that I have read in 2011 and will certainly count it as one among my favorites.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Doctor in love

The monsoon has started to make its presence felt in Kerala, and I am rather feeling it acutely in the form of power outage one day, then internet unavailability on the other.  It was one such day..err..night when I was without net and all the thundering and lightening going on in the background that I turned to my much neglected and dilapidated bookshelf.  The archeologist in me was suddenly alive and I started digging.  (My book shelf is more like a mound so one has to really dig).  After digging deep, at last I was able to come up with Richard Gordon's "Doctor in love."  It is a book I had purchased some time back and had entirely forgotten.  Now the time was ripe, and so off I went to the land of Dr. Richard Gordon, an intern at St. Swithin's hospital, who during a bout of jaundice falls in love, gets duped, vows to remain bachelor, and then when all was going fine and he least expected, love happens again, this time sweeping him off his feet and the story ends with tying of nuptial.  With his queer friends and queerer mentor, Dr. Richard Gordon's world is funny and I had a great time reading this book.

Did I enjoy this more because I am an MT, well, I cannot really say so, but perhaps the medicals humors made more sense to me due to my work and training, but still I guess those who love reading should enjoy this one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested ~ Sir. Francis Bacon.

After reading Siddartha, written by Hermann Hesse, this old quote from Sir Francis Bacon kept on reverberating in my mind, for Siddartha certainly comes under the third kind of books mentioned by him.

The story set in the times of Gautam Buddha tells about the search for the true self by a young man named Siddartha.  Written in simple yet lyrical style, the story leaves a profound impact on the readers mind and poses some very straight, but complex questions regarding life and God, the answer to which Siddhartha himself has been unable to find, which forces him to set off in a non-traditional path for self discovery.

This book is based on the Advaita school of thought, which states that God resides in the self only, but the self because of maya/deception is unable to realize God.

This is also the story of friendship, between Siddartha and Govinda (childhood friends) and also between that of Siddartha and Vasudeva (the boatman), who later on becomes a sort of mentor to Siddartha.

Another amazing thing about this book is that it was written in German, still the translation has been able to convey the subtleties, and thanks to the translation, the thoughts of Siddartha and Hermann Hesse would never be lost to people not knowing German language.