Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Two Books - Fiction and Non Fiction - Wait...What?

Two books I have read recently. One is Graeme Macrae Burnet's novel "His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to Roderick Macrae" and the second one is a non fiction written by James E. Ryan, title: "Wait...What? And Life's Other Essential Questions".

I have enjoyed reading both of these well written books.

Graeme Macrae Burnet's novel has good character development, and written such a way as if one is reading a non fiction account of an actual event. I am familiar with Scottish and Irish history, not a whole lot, but some through my other readings in the past. However, this particular novel describes the tragic life of a boy who was brought up in poverty in a remote Scottish village. What surprised me is so much similarities I have found between the central antagonist, the village constable who bullies a poor family and takes advantage of their plight and the rural villages in Bangladesh, where I was familiar with similar characters that used to be known as "Morol", or village leader, and some of them were as horrendous and brutes as the horrific character that Graeme Macrae Burnet written in his novel.

The main character, Roderick, had a tough life, lost his mother during child birth, had a rigid father who didn't know how to show love toward his children. Roderick was a gifted boy, so much so that his school teacher had urged him to pursue higher studies, but Roderick was loyal to his family so he stayed by them. Roderick's observations of injustice that the village constable was causing to his family and others in the village was heart breaking. In the end, the story turns to violence and innocent lives were lost for which Roderick had to pay ultimate price though most possibly, according to her lawyer, Roderick was mentally ill, however, in that time of nineteenth century, it was not easy to prove his case.

James E. Ryan's non fiction book "Wait...What? And Life's Other Essential Questions" is based on the writer's commencement speech at Harvard University where he is the Dean of Graduate School of Education.

The writing is effective as the writer points out several fundamental aspects of life that can help one get most out of his or her life. The very first pointer is to ask good questions without hesitation. It is by asking questions we can understand a true nature of a problem before jumping to a premature conclusion.

The second point that the writer point is to be curious at heart by asking "I Wonder..."? Being curious helps a person learn more about the world, our very existence, the universe and any other similarly perplexing questions. Curiosity is one of the biggest reasons that propelled humanity to its progress at this level I believe. The writer also correctly points out that curiosity leads to empathy. He writes, "Curious people are likely to be healthier, and to experience less anxiety in particular, because they see new situations as an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to realise that they don't know enough." The reason I find the writer's point is described well is because he had cited some of his own personal experiences including his search for his biological mother that is heart touching.

The third question that the write points out is "Couldn't we at least...?" - can really be effective as I can attest to this after using it to make my 3 year old son brush his teeth before going to bed. In a situation when things may seem difficult to solve, taking small steps perhaps can be helpful in many settings. Here is a quotation from the book, ""Couldn't we at least....?" is a good way to get unstuck. It is a way to get past disagreement to form some consensus...It's also a way to get started even when you're not entirely sure where you will finish, as in: "Couldn't we at least begin?.....The key to maintaining healthy and productive relationships is consensus...whether in politics, business, marriage, or friendship. Asking "Couldn't we at least agree?" especially in the midst of an argument, is a good way to pause, step back, and look for some areas of agreement."

Coming to negotiation, a middle ground, is difficult these days, as the writer refers to "group polarization" - "When like-minded individuals get together, online or in real life, they tend to reinforce each other's views. They not only increase the strength of each other's convictions, but they often lead each other, intentionally or not, to take even more extreme positions.....Asking "Couldn't we at least agree?" is a way to push back against polarization and extremism, because it is an invitation to find some areas of consensus. If you can find some common ground with others, especially those with different views, you are likely to see the world as a more nuanced place. At the very least, you are less likely to demonize those with whom you disagree."

The fourth question that the writer talks about is "How Can I Help?" - trying to help others is humane. Every human being is going through his or her journey of life, his or her stress from work, family, career, money issues, health, fear, anxiety, etc. Sometime we prejudge a person without knowing the full story. Being proactive and asking the question "How Can I Help?" "You will come to appreciate that.....It is the question that forms the base of all good relationships. It is a question that signals that you care. It signals a willingness to help. But it also signals respect, humility, and likelihood that, in the end, it is you who will be helped just as much." Good point.

The fifth question is "What Truly Matters?" that helps to differentiate between the really important and trivial. Here is a quote: "My only suggestion is that you regularly ask this question - of others, for sure. But more importantly, you should ask this question of yourself, and you should answer it honestly and fearlessly. If you do, this question won't just help you get to the bottom of an issue or a problem. It will also help you get to the heart of your life."

The writer has a last question as a bonus: "And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?" - human life is full of pain but also of sheer joy and happiness. By being bold, lending helping hands to others, not prejudging anyone, trying to getting into consensus, having empathy and sympathy for others, staying curious at heart forever, knowing the difference between the most important and the trivial matters and being humble can quite possibly lead one to say a resounding yes to the question: "And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?"

The following sentence by the writer sums it up well: "A sure way to feel beloved yourself is to help others feel the same."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

First They Came For ...

The problem is not only the disgraceful Muslim ban, the shameful wall, the taking away of privacy protection from many immigrants and non immigrants. It is also the ingrained belief in many that this banning decree only applies to those people from hand picked nations. History has the abundance of similar scenarios when the most vulnerable segments of the world were barred from leaving the persecutions of despot rulers. Many of them perished, children, women, men, emaciated, degraded to the utmost bottom level of a concerted dehumanization process. Yesterday's Remembrance Day for the Holocaust victims is one of the painful reminders of our world's blunder of the past.

My heart goes out to the countless millions in America, Europe and many other places, where the unmistakable xenophobia is rising in alarming speed. The ironic part is that the most victims of the violence, wars and senseless terrorism are the Muslims. They are the ones along with the other minorities trying desperately leaving the war and violence ravaged lands, mama and papa clinging to their toddler son and daughter, while grandma and grandpa hobbling along the ruinous roads and crumbled buildings.

Staying silent in the face of flagrant oppression is not an option as it tantamount to be complicit with the narcissistic oppressors. Being fearful to utter protestation is not fruitful either, and changing colour like a chameleon is ridiculously ineffective in the end, as Pastor Niemoller had captured it so eloquently many years ago during Hitler's time of inglorious prowess:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This can be rephrased in contemporary terms:

First they came for the natives, and I did not speak out --Because I was not native 
Then they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Black 
Then they came for the Mexicans, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Mexican 
Then they came for the disabled, and I did not speak out --Because I was not disabled 
Then they came for the gay, lesbian and transgender, and I did not speak out --Because I was not gay, lesbian or transgender 
Then they came for the protesting women, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not woman
Then they came for the poor white, and I did not speak out --Because I was not poor white
Then they came for the Muslim, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Muslim 
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Also, the Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl's immortal words from Man's Search for Meaning should be a constant reminder for our easily distracted and subdued souls:

"Danger only threatens when a political system sends those not-decent people, i.e., the negative element of a nation, to the top. And no nation is immune from doing this, and in this respect every nation is in principle capable of a Holocaust!"

"only two types of politicians: the first are those who believe that the end justifies the means, and that could be any means . . . While the other type of politician knows very well that there are means that could desecrate the holiest end. And it is this type of politician whom I trust"

"What then is man? Thus we ask the question again. He is a being that always decides what it is. A being that has within it at one and the same time the possibility of sinking to the level of an animal or of soaring to a life of near-holiness. Man is that being which invented the gas chambers; but he is at the same time that being which walked with head held high into these very same gas chambers".

May the world and its trusted leaders and citizenry see the light of compassion before another terrible blunder is made.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I'd published the following review in Goodreads on January 4, 2017: 

Some in this world are indeed brave and full of compassion. The author of this remarkable non fiction book, Bryan Stevenson, is surely one of them.

This is an impactful book that gives detail on the sordid state of criminal justice system in the US, world's one of the most advanced nations in terms of economy and societal progress. If US is in such a painful state where equal justice and protection for all citizens needs an urgent transformative overhaul, then what can be said about other nations where democracy and human rights are in unstable ground?

In my humble opinion, this should be a must read book as I believe the real life pain and anguish of the innocent people who are denied the fair justice for so many years can help people who are unaware of this miserable justice system can help raise the awareness for the necessary correction in the system.

Some of the invaluable lessons I have learned are:

"mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion."

"The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned."

"An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others."

"people struggling for independence wanted money and recognition from other countries; they wanted more criticism of the Soviet empire from the West and more diplomatic pressure. But Havel had said that these were things they wanted; the only thing they needed was hope. Not that pie in the sky stuff, not a preference for optimism over pessimism, but rather “an orientation of the spirit.” The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong."

"being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity."

"we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent. A system that denies the poor the legal help they need, that makes wealth and status more important than culpability, must be changed. Walter’s case taught me that fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous."

Thank you Bryan Stevenson for your honest and steadfast work.

This magnificent book reminded me another great book I was fortunate to read last year. It is Victor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. There are remarkable similarities in the noble concept of just mercy that Bryan Stevenson elaborated through various heartbreaking case studies with Victor E. Frankl's painstaking reminder what goodness of humanity can achieve. Here are a few excerpts from that book that I find go hands in hands with Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy:

"What then is man? Thus we ask the question again. He is a being that always decides what it is. A being that has within it at one and the same time the possibility of sinking to the level of an animal or of soaring to a life of near-holiness. Man is that being which invented the gas chambers; but he is at the same time that being which walked with head held high into these very same gas chambers, the Lord’s Prayer or the Jewish prayer for the dead on his lips."

Another excerpt: 

"And in their last words there was not a single word of hatred—only words of longing came from their lips—and words of forgiveness; for what they hated, and what we hate, is never people. One must be able to forgive people. What they hated was simply the system—the system that made some guilty and drove others to their death."

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

This year I will give my best to read as many good books as I can. The year started well. Yesterday I finished reading an excellent novel written by Eowyn Ivey. Here is the short review I've written in goodreads: 

An excellent read. So vivid and lively with wild Alaska imageries! For a few days while reading this poetically written novel I felt like transported to 1885, seeing the breathtaking journeys of Allen Forrester, Tillman, Pruit, Samuelson, Boyd and unforgettable Nataaggi along with Boyo through the harsh wintry Alaskan landscape, Indian villages and spirit full mountain pass leaping out from masterfully constructed words and scenes. Sophie's passion of photography, her patience and determination capturing the "light" around birds are uplifting.

Throughout the adventure of the main story the core human condition, the existential vulnerabilities, the strong's severe abuse of the weak, and the yearning for redemption in guilt conscious mind are depicted well. 

This is also a love story as the separation between Allen and Sophie during the long expedition and Tillman's longing for Nataaggi are written with melancholic sorrow. 

I have also enjoyed Walt and Josh's letter exchanges, clarifying the main story in historical context. I am looking forward to read this outstanding writer's many more books in future.

The following are two memorable excerpts from this book I's noted in my kindle, there are many like poetic observations throughout the book: 
"There is a mythical element to our childhood, it seems, that stays with us always. When we are young, we consume the world in great gulps, and it consumes us, and everything is mysterious and alive and fills us with desire and wonder, fear, and guilt. With the passing of the years, however, those memories become distant and malleable, and we shape them into the stories of who we are. We are brave, or we are cowardly. We are loving, or we are cruel."
"The forest has always had such an effect on my spirits, the moment slows until I can see the intricacies, bright and pure, like removing the back of a pocket watch to see the shining metal gears turning, turning."

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bangladesh, Shelter the Persecuted Rohingyans

When Bangladeshi men, women and children fled from their homeland in 1971 during the time of horrible war, neighbours helped them with open arms. People in West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Asham went beyond their means welcoming Bangladeshi refugees, sheltered them, gave them food, clothes and overall they provided the persecuted refugees protection from the wrath of the war.
In 21st century, the recent misfortunes of the persecuted Rohinguya people from Myanmar, is not well reported, as other bigger conflicts from the geopolitically volatile regions get the limelight, overshadowing the tears, agonies and anguish of the bereft Rohinguya families. Bangladesh was born from the ashes of the war, from the pain and millions of innocent people's deaths in intense nine months war. It is time for Bangladesh comes forward with open arms and accept all the persecuted people from Rohingya. Yes, economically it will not be an easy task, most noble and compassionate undertaking are difficult to do, but it is the right thing to do. Over time, Bangladesh can seek international donors' assistance, but at this desperate time, please shelter the war ravaged Rohinguya people without hesitation.
I am also urging the United Nations to take the rightful and timely steps: first do an impartial and thorough investigation to determine what is happening in Myanmar's Rakhine state where per Human Rights Watch article: "satellite pictures from Myanmar's troubled Rakhine State reveal mass destruction in ethnic Rohinguya villages." Some of the description from this tragedy is heart wrenching: 
"A Rohingya man named Salaman told AFP he had helped to bury a man and a woman who were shot by soldiers on Saturday. 
“Soldiers came in to Doetan village in the evening of the 19th about 5pm,” he reportedly said. “Most of the men from the village ran away because they are afraid of being arrested and tortured. Then they started shooting and two were killed.” 
Rights activist Chris Lewa, whose Arakan Project NGO operates in Maungdaw, confirmed the account and said two babies were also swept away as villagers tried to escape across a river. 
Since then 100 people have reportedly been killed, hundreds detained by the military and at least 30,000 have fled. Numerous women claim to have been raped by troops.

Image credit: Reuters.com
"A Rohingya Muslim man and his son cry after being caught by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) while illegally crossing at a border check point in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 21, 2016

Image credit: Reuters.com
A Rohinguya Muslim woman and her son cry after being caught by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) while illegally crossing at a border check point in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 21, 2016

Photo Credit: Associated Press
 In this June 13, 2012 file photo, a Rohingya Muslim man who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape religious violence, cries as he pleads from a boat after he and others were intercepted by Bangladeshi border authorities in Taknaf, Bangladesh.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

American Choice

Election day in America is only few days away. It's Sunday night and the election is on Tuesday. The entire world looks to be on the edge. I have followed all the American elections from the beginning of my political consciousness and also was fortunate to take two rigorous American History and two American Government courses while studying at American universities. The intense debates between the right and the left, and the festive atmosphere of the campaigns, stump speeches, endless news analysis, these are all part of this intriguing election process.

In 21st century, like its predecessor 20th century, America is still looked upon as the beacon of hope in most parts of our wold. When subjugated people in severely autocratic ruled nation march in protest filled processions, many look upon American style of freedom of speech, representational democracy and its allure of modernity and a nation based on tolerance and decency.

Yes, nothing is perfect in this world, not is America. It has its flaws. Unfortunate racial tensions, gun violence, the lengthening gap between have and have not, these are all part of this flawed democratic system. Among all these terribleness, America is still a dream nation for most of the populace of our world. The glitzy movies from Hollywood, the heart bursting super unhealthy but 'delicious' burger, enthralling music album of American great singers and musicians, novels and non fictions of first class caliber writers, and super human American athletes from almost all kinds of sports, from basketball to football to baseball to swimming, among many other best of the best kinds personalities, entities or simple myths, the relatively near past and contemporary world populace look at America as the greatest nation of our world, and wants their own nation to emulate American success story.

"Make America Great Again" - when I hear this mouthful slogan from the Republican candidate Donald Trump - the first thing that comes to my mind as an avid reader of American history is that America is already a great nation, and perhaps the greatest of all nations in world's history of homo sapiens.

Yes, where criticism is due I was never hesitant to utter my criticisms, including the horrible invasion of Iraq in 2003 and many other fiasco during Bush/Cheney Presidency. I was vocal whenever I could against any forms of human rights abuse, killings and injuring of innocent civilians including women and children by that merciless war and its aftermath. Unless it is absolutely needed to protect innocent civilians from a desperate situation, war should always be the last resort as time and time again it has been proven in human history that diplomatic solution is the best option in overwhelmingly majority cases.

Like many I felt puzzled seeing the improbable rise of Donald Trump. I used to love his TV reality show The Apprentice, waited eagerly to see how he handled the final board room confrontations and uttered the fateful words: "You are fired". However, the Donald Trump that emerged during this Presidential Election campaign was shocking. I had also read a book that Donald Trump wrote with Guy Kawasaki about a decade ago, and if my memory is serving me correctly, it is about making the reader rich by becoming a good investor. Throughout the entire election campaign I felt that the Donald Trump I had known about from his popular show The Apprentice and the well written book I had read before, is not the same. His depiction of Mexicans as the rapists and drug traffickers, denigrating the comparatively tiny minority American Muslim community by insisting and unmistakably insinuating that all Muslims are somehow complicit to all the horrible crimes and violence committed by thugs and terrorists are beyond comprehension for me. Then came the disgusting "locker room banter" where Mr. Trump was boasting his "celebrity" status where he could do anything to women is jaw dropping. Only thing I could think was how can a great nation like America let this type of candidate representing one of the major parties?

Undoubtedly, Hilary Clinton is the most experienced and versatile candidate in comparison to Donald Trump. Her impeccable resume filled with super duper educational background, law career where she fought for the marginalized of the society, her heart felt efforts to bring universal health care to America while she was the First Lady, being the Senator of New York and the agonizing campaign against President Obama and later becoming the Secretary of State. She is articulate, passionate in her cause and a champion fighter like the greatest boxer Muhammad Ali was in his prime and can still win the hard fought bout. I am not sure if there is any other American politician who has gone through so much scrutiny and criticism,, mostly unfair in my humble opinion, than Hilary.

American voters are now in the driving seat. They will choose one candidate to be the next American President. Not even 48 hours left when the voting begins in this most indecent and intolerable election campaign I have observed. So much political division with electrifying polarization. So much bigotry filled words, negative portrayals of the opposing candidate and manipulating prospective voters' emotions by making them afraid of the most vulnerable segments of its society. The sooner this election season ends, the better it is. At least one can hope that much.

Whoever wins on Tuesday, I don't know how he or she would bring the nation together after portraying each other the devil with horns. But I have trust in American checks and balance based democracy.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Literary Reading's Steady Decline

So much options, so little time. This is the dilemma of the modernity of abundance. Binging in movies and endless TV series in so easily available wonderful Netflix streaming, hard core gaming in PS4 or Microsoft Xbox One, browsing through Facebook status and interesting feeds, tweets, funny cat and stupendous viral videos in YouTube, cool photos in Instagram, tumbling through Tumbler, pinning never to be read articles and essays and flipping Flipboard like a fantastic ninja. The ever increasing choices to capture the fleeting mind and the decreasing attention span.

Where is the time for reading for the sole purpose of pleasure and broadening one's mind and outlook? Where is the energy and motivation and inspiration opening a melancholic novel written in poetic style illuminating humanity's goodness and its terrible shortcoming? No time and efforts for seeing the world from other person's perspective.

The declining of readership of world's exquisite novels and stories is probably not a surprise in the midst of distractions. The consequences of this painful trend do not bode well for humanity's collective empathy index as this steady downward trend of reading abandonment of world's one of the greatest treasures, books with high quality and transformative and rejuvenating power, may very well nudge humanity to a not so friendly a place, not so kind and gentle ambience where vulnerable segments of any society or a nation are put into heartless treatment.

Seeing the world and this ridiculously short existence from one or many perspectives perhaps helped the humanity's progress from its infancy to its somewhat maturity of the modern world. One by one all the past bigotry, naked hatred, grabbing other man's resources and livelihood were placed under the tightening international and national laws, ensuring the flourishing of democracy, and the uplifting of countless many from the depth of abject poverty and outright cruelty to a livable world. Surely, unstable spots exist where war and violence are still taking heavy tolls on innocent human souls. Certainly, many more are still suffering chained in the sinuous shackles of poverty and its myriad of manifestations. Taking into account of all the miseries and terribleness, humanity is still in a better shape than it was not too long ago in the bygone centuries and millennia.

Unless this tragic downward trend of literary reading can be reversed earnestly, the precious humanitarian achievements that the human world had achieved, may slip away, slip away into the chaos of soulless and robotic impulse where the talk of compassion is mightily overwhelmed by crafty and selfish ploys.

Reference link:


Monday, August 29, 2016

Quantum Night by Robert J Sawyer

I didn't know about the writer Robert J Sawyer. One of the daily deals that Amazon has for Kindle, I just went for it and got this book as it had a good price tag and good reviews. Once started reading it, I found it hard to put down. It's a fast paced book based on scientific and philosophical musings and the world and its indifference to the sufferings of the others. The writer had a hypothesis that entire human race is connected through quantum entanglement and that in individual level there are only one of three quantum levels one can be: Q1 as he termed are the "P-Zed" zombies who doesn't have any inner thoughts, just takes actions based on stimulants. The Q2 are the psychopath and Q3 people have full conscience.

It was an interesting read. The writer invoked some of the current political turmoils in a not so distant future's light. I wish the end could be a bit less predictable. Still, I have enjoyed reading this book and would like to explore more of Robert J Sawyer's writings. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Planting Seeds

Outstanding speech by Hilary Clinton. I hope her inclusive vision becomes triumphant over Trump's exclusivity and fear based propaganda. The following quote from Hilary's speech I found to stay with me for a long time: "Though we may not live to see the glory, as the song from the musical Hamilton goes, "let us gladly join the fight." Let our legacy be about "planting seeds in a garden you never get to see." That's why we're here...not just in this hall, but on this Earth." 

Beautifully said!


Some of the speeches at Democratic National Convention were inspiring. Here are my late night thought before falling into sleep: In the end, the decency, generosity and compassion of Americans I have personally known about will swipe away the despicable bigotry and intolerance of demagogue based politics.

Also, loved reading a GQ article tonight. One memorable segment about Obama's legendary legacy in history I found to be eloquently stated: "This year’s carnival election, with Trump as a kind of debauched circus barker, only makes the distinction clearer. The absurdity and car-crash spectacle of it all have already lent Obama an out-of-time quality, as if he were a creature from another, loftier century. Whatever happens next, I feel this in my bones: We’ll look back at history, hopefully when we’re zooming down the Barack Obama Hyperloop Transport System, and think: That man was rare. And we were damn lucky to have him."

Link to GQ article: http://www.gq.com/story/obama-greatest-president-legacy

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Does Reading Fiction Make You a Better Person?

Reading fiction, especially literary fiction, makes one feels more empathy toward others more than any other forms of writing. A good quote from Sarah Kaplan's article, "When we read about other people, we can imagine ourselves into their position and we can imagine it's like being that person, ....That enables us to better understand people, better cooperate with them." And that also helps lessening the heartless stereotyping of anyone. Gotta read more good fictions!

Link to Sarah Kaplan's The Washington Post article: Does Reading Fiction Make You a Better Person?

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Pray for Bangladesh, Pray for Humanity

Words have meaning
As do sentences
Weaved by cacophonous words
Our languages
Dialects like the colorful butterfly
Fluttering wings
Spread over the fragrant flowers
And vibrant leaves of summer

Our tears have roots
Like the tree of knowledge
Curved into the depth
Of abyss
Crisscrossing mushy mud, pebbles and stones
As if a meteorite striking
Past the twinkling star

Bones tremble
Like the rattling train engine
Our words and tears
Put a wrapper on our numb agonies
Witnessing the vibrant leaves,
Colorful flowers wither away
Even the sunny summer and sprinkling rain
Could not hold back their gloomy demise

One day
We will depart
This world of immeasurable grace
And allure that the singing birds
Praise in every dawn and dusk
All the stones will remain
As the mushy mud and the pebbles
In sandy beach will be washed
Again and again by ever salty ocean
Our simple hopes and aching love
Our cowering fear and muddy rage
All washed away
Riding the frothy waves
Of bygone humanity

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Terrorism is Injustice

It's heart breaking! Hoping one day the world will get back its collective compassion and sanity while the mindless terrorism, brutal wars, political violence, deepening bigotry and hatred will be cast aside for the sake of neglected humanity. Martin Luther King Jr. said it the best as it does not matter who the victims are, wherever they are, from the hacked bloggers, minorities and ordinary men and women in Bangladesh, gunned down civilians in Tel Aviv, relentless mayhem and subjugation of populace in Palestine, the heart wrenching massacres in Paris and Brussels, every day blood letting in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and increasingly in Turkey, repeated horrors in Pakistan, or the drowning of hundred of helpless migrants in the mediterranean, or the senseless murders of innocents in a gay night club of Orlando, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

What does get accomplished inflicting pains, sufferings, injuries and deaths to the people but more pains, sufferings and inciting bigotry? What political end does it seek to establish but a desolate world where everyone cowers in fear of their very own shadow?

My deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Rest in Peace Muhammad Ali

Ali, Ali, Ali
Chant the fans,
The roaring crowd
Muhammad Ali
Cassius Clay
Who floored Liston, Frazier
Norton, Foreman
Saying hay! 
Who is the prettiest one?
"Float like a butterfly
Sting like a bee
The hands can't hit
What the eyes can't see"

Ali, Ali, Ali
Muhammad Ali
The meanest, the greatest
The poet dancing
With the gloves in the ring
Said no to war and bigotry
Without fear but full of
Alacrity, lived everyday
As the very last one
And the last one 
Has arrived and gone
To dimming dusk

Ali, Ali, Ali
Muhammad Ali
Rest in peace the crazy
bravest man!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Climate Change - Stephen Hawking's Warning

Stephen Hawking's dire warning regarding the catastrophic climate change: "a more immediate danger is runaway climate change,” Hawking said. “A rise in ocean temperature would melt the ice-caps, and cause a release of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the ocean floor. Both effects could make our climate like that of Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees.”

Climate change is the single most devastating threat the world is facing. With unified global collaboration the world must face it and implement a practical solution in urgent basis. 

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Fort McMurray Fire

The pictures and videos emerging from the burning fire in and around Fort McMurray are painful to watch. An entire town was evacuated, thousands of homes and other infrastructures are burned to the ground. Families had to leave their home and all belongings, most will be lost in the raging fire. I never thought that a major city like Fort McMurray would face so sudden and drastic demise. 

People from all walks of life in Canada and beyond along with Canadian federal government and Alberta provincial government have come forward to help the evacuees. A firefighter friend of my, Chris, is already in the raging city, battling the fire with utmost devotion, the devotion to protect people's home, school, offices, hospitals, playground and industrial areas. Many have opened their homes, taking in the devastated fire evacuees. And many more have donated
to Red Cross, even going through a tough, turbulent economy in Alberta, that
didn't resist them sharing their dwindling resources, including money.

These are all hopeful signs of an intact humanity. With the collaboration among many thousand people in and beyond Alberta, people are uniting to help the fire evacuees.

The worse does bring the best in people.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dear Prince and Beloved Queen

Rest in peace dear Prince
Happy birthday beloved queen
Songs of love without mince
Bolden Royal smile, pristine

I thought you are immortal
Will live forever above fractal
Of life and villainous death
Queen is alive, long live the queen
But the bat dancing prince died, 
leaving the colourful blooming wreath
Scattered around the dismal gloom

When the doves cry, 
All the birds flutter wings and fly
Away, far away.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh Is Still a Danger to Many

I thought this problem was resolved years ago. When the news came about more than a decade back, lots of international activities were observed. Many deep wells were dug, many promises were made by successive Bangladeshi governments and international organizations and many sympathetic nations. It's not that all these efforts were just simply fruitless. Many millions got spared from drinking arsenic contaminated water in Bangladesh. But according to this news article published in ABC it is the poor, the most marginalized and the people with no political clout are suffering the most because of rampant nepotism and the overall poor governance in Bangladesh. Here is an excerpt:
"An estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh are still being poisoned by arsenic-tainted water — a number that has remained unchanged from 10 years ago despite years of action to dig new wells at safer depths, according to a new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch. 
The New York-based rights group blames nepotism and neglect by Bangladeshi officials, saying they're deliberately having new wells dug in areas convenient for friends, family members and political supporters and allies, rather than in places where arsenic contamination is highest or large numbers of poor villagers are being exposed."
In a democracy based nation like Bangladesh this should be totally unacceptable. The current secular government has taken many good initiatives that helped many poor and the impoverished people but there should be no tolerance toward nepotism where selected villages get preference over the neglected ones because of political consideration and not based on scientific facts and need.

1. Bangladesh Failing Spare Millions from Arsenic Poisoning.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

We are 'children of the same God'

Pope Francis washes the feet of Muslim migrants, says we are 'children of the same God' from The Washington Post

My deep respect for the great Pope Francis. One does not need to believe the same or any religion to recognize the symbolic gesture of compassion shown by this pious man to the vilified human beings (children, women, men) who fled the wars, many of them are now facing the backlash of bigotry spawning from the political exploitation. Goodness still has the core residence in this world. Pope Francis is one of the good souls like many in different faiths and non faith whose relentless struggles over zealots and fools are the source of inspiration.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What's Happening - a poem

What's happening 
Boy, twisted metal
Blaring sirens
Destroy the 
Musical scream

Deep into the night
Dark time screeches 
The passersby
School children 
Throws the books 
Of science and art
Out the cryptic window
Uttering flamboyant vow
Not to return
To the lands of the vulgar creep

Mourning the mangled dead
The bloody hat, prosthetics
Colourful, and cheery
Riders of the galloping horses
Squeezing the eye lids, scrutinize
All that look different, hazy
Muttering the words of flame

Shame! Shame! Shame!
Says the neighbour,
Shopkeeper, random man
With dry washed suit
And the lady pushing a stroller
Out of here! Out of this land!
Says the mass in electronic flare

What's happening
Had happened before
Times and again
Here, on this land
Where the freedom reign
With the songs of glory
Of Beauty, goodness supreme
There, the invaded,
Chastised, incinerated
Where little children
With dried tears and muffled groan
Play tic tac toe 
On bloodied mud and stone
Or colouring the Easter Egg
Near the smashed skull 
And bones of ma and papa
Without atone 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See
A fantastic book, read like an epic prose poem, so much emotions, incisive observations of the war when the good and the bad collided, the dreams and the yearning for a life and longing for the loved ones, the blindness of meaningless war that had claimed so many innocent lives!  All the light we cannot see through our ordinary eyes and senses, that the colluded mind bounces from, only the brave and the kind soul who can stand affirm and say boldly no to injustice of any kind eviscerating fear to thousand pieces can have the meaningful glimpse. 

Read this book and let your forever young heart cries in agony and smile with joy in taking the simple pleasures of life, as did the blind girl and the misplaced "very small" soldier with his precocious sister felt. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Victor E. Frankl's deeply impactful book "Man's Search for Meaning"

I am glad that I have just finished reading Victor E. Frankl's deeply impactful book "Man's Search for Meaning". The writer was a psychiatrist who had survived the terrible Concentration Camp during the Second World War. The main part of this book was written not too long after the writer's release. Every page of this book I found to be meaningful, so eloquently written the humaneness of our existence, through sheer sufferings and joyful freedom. I could not resist myself sharing some of the enlightening words of wisdom from this must read book that to me are timeless. If you read one book this year, I humbly recommend that pick up this book and read it from the beginning to end, highlighting the words and sentences written by a man with a kind and genuine heart. 

Here are some excerpts: 

"In reality there are only two races, namely the “race” of decent people and the “race” of people who are not decent."

"That decent people are in the minority, that they have always been a minority and are likely to remain so is something we must come to terms with. Danger only threatens when a political system sends those not-decent people, i.e., the negative element of a nation, to the top. And no nation is immune from doing this, and in this respect every nation is in principle capable of a Holocaust!"

"only two types of politicians: the first are those who believe that the end justifies the means, and that could be any means . . . While the other type of politician knows very well that there are means that could desecrate the holiest end. And it is this type of politician whom I trust"

"What then is man? Thus we ask the question again. He is a being that always decides what it is. A being that has within it at one and the same time the possibility of sinking to the level of an animal or of soaring to a life of near-holiness. Man is that being which invented the gas chambers; but he is at the same time that being which walked with head held high into these very same gas chambers, the Lord’s Prayer or the Jewish prayer for the dead on his lips."

"Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness."

"And in their last words there was not a single word of hatred—only words of longing came from their lips—and words of forgiveness; for what they hated, and what we hate, is never people. One must be able to forgive people. What they hated was simply the system—the system that made some guilty and drove others to their death."

"nobody has the right to wait “until things become clearer” and to continue to live only provisionally. As soon as we try to shape the provisional, it is no longer provisional! Whether it is the provisional in the big things or the small things—each of us has to reshape our own “provisional” life into a definitive one. Nobody is allowed to wait any longer—each of us must pitch in—each of us must ask ourselves, as a wise man asked sixteen centuries ago: “If I do not do it—who else will do it? And if I do not do it now—then when?”"

"And so we should not only remember the dead, but also forgive the living. Just as we reach out our hand to the dead, across all graves, so we reach out to the living—across all hatred. And when we say: Honored be the dead, so we should add: And peace to all the living who are of goodwill."

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant

This is the third book by Kazuo Ishiguro I've read. Like the other two books I'd read years ago, namely The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, The Buried Giant transported me to a different time and a place, about 1500 years in the past, in the land of craggy hills, desolate cairn, musty warren where in the wild the giant ogres roam, pixies swim and crawl from the depth of the river, and the fog covers the 'peaceful' land, where the inhabitants suffer from the sweet forgetfulness, and even a dragon's poisonous breath hovers over the land.

The character development I found to be skilful. The main characters, the old couple Axl and Beatrice are on a journey to see their only son, and the story unfolds, layer by layer from their arduous journey. Two great warriors, an old knight from the time of King Arthur and a travelling warrior from the 'Fenland', cross the path of Axl and Beatrice. The descriptions of the ambience and dialogues of the old Britons and Saxons, move this story in and around of various human complexity, while the writer keeps the core essence of the story intact.

Kazuo Ishiguro is good in writing parables and The Buried Giant is a well crafted parable, invoking the never ending cycle of vengeance and war, the heartless brutality that the ancient wars brought, and the lives of the ordinary people, their love, betrayal, grief and longing for the loved ones, are the major themes of this memorable book.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an excellent story from beginning to end. Once I started reading, it was hard to stop reading this fabulous book. The vivid imageries and the tight story plot are awesome!  Loved it. 

Monday, December 07, 2015

Sinusoidal Troll - a Poem

Along came a serpent exhaling
The miasma of smoky air
Hissing the twisted tongue
At all the beautiful there
For the serpent’s venom
Is meant for all
No discrimination in its
Poisonous crawl

Some in near and far
Gloated as they see it as a friend
That will vanquish all the misery
And the subhuman fiend
But the sinusoidal troll chuckles
Wrapped in grimy hiss
As it readies the toxic teeth
For not so friendly blitz

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Picture Frame - a Poem

Picture Frame - a Poem

The dusk before night appears. After a day of warmth,
bellowing wind and the bare naked trees without leaves
and crumpling flowers on the frigid boughs holding on
to the dear life as it recedes from the disappearing
memories of balmy spring.

Rummaging through old photo albums of days
fade out color, smudging corners of decaying
picture frames, brings back those laughter
loud and alive, those faces and eyes no longer
in visible spectrum of this glorious world.

As dusk turns into a night, the sliver of broken moon
glows the tiny speckles of icicles on the metallic roofs
of parked cars on the street, while the dark alleys
and the rows of neat slumbering houses prepare for
a long wintry night of dreamless sleep.

I wrote this poem after getting inspired reading the following prosy poem of Raymond Carver. His internal rhyming, the brilliance in musical devices that this writer of immense talent wrote, is beyond my rudimentary poetic ability at this point of my life.

After-Glow by Raymond Carver

The dusk of evening comes on. Earlier a little rain
had fallen. You open a drawer and find inside
the man's photograph, knowing he has only two years
to live. He doesn't know this, of course,
that's why he can mug for the camera.
How could he know what's taking root in his head
at this moment? If one looks to the right
through boughs and tree trunks, there can be seen
crimson patches of the after-glow. No shadows, no
half-shadows. It is still and dump....
The man goes on mugging. I put the picture back
in its place along with the others and give
my attention instead to the after-glow along the far ridge,
light golden on the roses in the garden.
Then I can't help myself, I glance once more
at the picture. The wink, the broad smile,
the jaunty slant of the cigarette.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My Fear for You, My Son - a Poem

My fear for you, my son
while holding you closest to my heart
listening to your mild heartbeat
My fear for you, my son
Is the world turning into
a void full of people
without remorse or regret

You walk and giggle
all the pure delight shining through you
You hold my fingers tight
while exploring room to room
touching new things, objects of your fascination
dancing with your favorite nursery rhymes
and building structure with colorful blocks
you say broken words, made up words
no language puts barrier
no religion clouds your simple thoughts
and pleasure exploring the world
as it is and not make believe by the idiotic adults

My fear for you, my son
while feeding you a squeezed orange
smearing your face with my clumsy palm
that you will grow up in a world
receded to the time of medieval feuds
where the cries of oppressed and dispossessed
are laughed and jeered at with beguiling farce