Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl

Here is a book which describes what keeps a human going in times of greatest despair, the likes of which humanity has seldom known. Its easy to look at instances of immense suffering from afar and exclaim: “Oh! Even death would be better.”
This is the exact line of thought that is irrevocably shattered once you read this book. No matter how degraded or miserable life becomes, it is still better than death. Of course it is very easy for me to write now, sitting comfortably in an air conditioned room, but this is the message of this book.
As is mentioned in the preface, what makes this book even more valuable in understanding human nature is that Mr Frankl was himself a trained psychologist.
And at the end of it, its a description of the human will to survive, whether through faith, or a belief of better times to come.

मधुशाला, by Harivansh Rai Bachchan

As soon as I read this poetry collection, the first thought that came to my mind was: Why is this not a part of our school curriculum?
I’d agree that a poetry collection about a मधुशाला (liquor tavern) is hardly suitable for the schoolchildren. But the way Mr Bachchan relates a मधुशाला with our day to day lives is nothing short of phenomenal. From not-so-oblique digs at communal differences to the powerlessness of man against an overpowering addiction, there is so much in these lines that even the best moral stories of our times fail to capture. All this and more, with reference to a मधुशाला.
Some of the many absolutely memorable lines of this composition are as follows:

मुसलमान औ’ हिन्दू है दो, एक, मगर, उनका प्याला,
एक, मगर, उनका मदिरालय, एक, मगर, उनकी हाला,
दोनों रहते एक न जब तक मस्जिद मन्दिर में जाते,
बैर बढ़ाते मस्जिद मन्दिर मेल कराती मधुशाला!

Days Bygone

Recent advertisements of food products (read Maggi, Paperboat, etc) play heavily upon the nostalgia of tastes experienced in our childhood. These are certainly powerful ads, but how far are they able to deliver what they promise?
I speak from personal experience & leave it to the reader to decide whether he/she feels the same way. When I remember the taste of a Frooti or a Maggi from my childhood, the memory includes the sweet taste of freedom, of a special occasion, of eating something different than what I tasted everyday. What I remember is no only the taste, but the happiness associated with it. Same goes for eating a mango or a sugarcane. If someome were to sell me some sugarcane juice now (or Paperboat Aamras, for that matter), the image evoked in my mind includes the days when we used to engage in with those sugarcanes, or when summer storms made mangoes fall from the trees by the dozens.
What they are trying to sell now falls far short of the images these images or advertisememts evoke. I daresay its not in the power of any company or product itself to deliver what is being promised now.
While I appreciate the marketing itself, I feel compelled to wonder:

Whither went the days bygone,
Whither went the sweet smell of the midsummer morn,
Will I ever ever taste that freedom unshorn,
Or must I wait forever in an attempt forlorn?

A Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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The Little Prince on Asteroid 325

The Little Prince is a story that starts on such a low note that its almost childlike in its innocence, a quality maintained throughout its length. However, it intermittently raises questions about how a child perceives the world differently than a grown-up, having a completely different weltanschauung. The Little Prince remains relevant even after seven decades of its publication.

Maybe the age at which its read matters a lot. Maybe it is best suited for the age at which we slowly leave childhood behind but are not yet grown-ups. This limbo is a place where this story would make the most sense. But then, maybe all should read it, even the grown-ups. For although the inner child might be in hibernation, I’d like to think, nay believe that the kid is still alive in every grown-up.

You can read the book for free here: http://papermine.com/pub/2005#cover

Shakespeare & Schrödinger

Shakespeare: To be or not to be, that is the question.

Schrödinger’s Cat: To be and not to be, there is no question.