Well, I was wondering how long I could keep up the weekly blog on my reading – which of course is related very much to how much I get to read during the week. And in this some weeks are better than others. The last couple of weeks, I got caught up in a variety of activities including an unexpected and hectic trip to Nashik (business) and a return to some of the projects I have in hand (re-organizing my old photos, some embroidery projects etc. ) which I had been neglecting and finally the vacation of the children!! When Aadyaa is around, she wants 100% attention, I am NOT allowed to read. So, here are my activities for the fortnight…..
A fine writer, with a great ability to spin words and evoke nostalgia, memories and moments from the past. This book spans a period of nearly 150 years, skipping back and forth and linking the Ireland and the New World. It recounts the tale of 4 generations of women, theirs trials and tribulations and the strengths that took them through all sorts of adverse situations, to come out triumphant. But, within all that, there were bits and pieces that failed to connect, and as with many other books of this kind, the back and forth in time does not always work. There is a feeling in the middle pages, that the tale is not forging ahead.
When this book was selected by a reading group in my locality, I realized that I had not read Stephen Hawking at all. Of course, I have at various times read about his work. I got a copy and although, I did not make it to the group discussion, I enjoyed large parts of the book. It is not strictly speaking a book for lay people as it is made out to be – but for anyone with a basic understanding of science, the concepts would be easy to grasp. Hawking has simplified the complex issues of astronomy, basics concepts of physics and provided simple explanations which are often entertaining as well. Most of all, I enjoyed references to the conflict between the science and religion in the matter of creation and origin of man. It reminded me of the internal conflicts that Darwin had, which led him to delay publication of his theory of natural selection by over 2 decades, since it was considered in violation of the biblical belief regarding creation.
And finally the Charles Allen book on the mapping of Tibet and the origin of the great rivers of the subcontinent. Charles Allen is a historian who writes mostly about Central and South Asia, with a special partiality to India. Allen, in this book recounts the efforts to map Tibet since the early Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century, to the various Europeans in the late 18th and 19th centuries who tried to map the source of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus. Many of these ventures were in disguises as ‘Whites’ were not welcome in Tibet. To circumvent this, the English trained local Indians in survey methods and sponsored their travels. The mapping of the complete course of the Brahmaputra is most amazing, with the Swedish adventurer (actually called geographer) Sven Hadin being credited to map the last parts of its course. The pure sense of adventure for unmapped regions that drove these men to face the hardships, their sense of adventure has always fascinated me. I particularly enjoyed this book, since it took me back to the regions around Mt Kailas and Mansarovar which I visited a few years ago. Considered to be the toughest pilgrimage in the world, consider my own trek to these places as the high point of my life. And the absolute grandeur matches even today the descriptions of these travelers from times gone by. Allen has done a great job of etching the history of these adventures.