BOOK REVIEW – Here, There, and Everywhere – Author – Sudha Murty

Sudha Murty, the chairperson of Infosys has had a long literary journey. Her simple art of storytelling is praised across the world and is rejoiced by the children, the young and the old alike. ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ is a book that carries a collection of twenty-two odd stories written by the author from her own personal and professional experiences. Some of these stories have been published earlier and some are new. You feel an instant connection with the stories and these will stay with you for a very long time.

Some stories that left a lasting impression on my mind are ‘The Red Rice Granary’ narrating how Sudha’s grandparents gave away the superior quality rice to the hungry and the needy and eat the one of a lower quality each day, ‘Cattle Class’ which is a tight slap on the face of the hypocrites, ‘Rahman’s Avva’ the story of a Muslim boy brought up by a Hindu mother who raised him as a Muslim, ‘A Life Unwritten’ wherein Sudha’s father, a doctor helps a miserable girl deliver a baby at the sake of his own life and unexpectedly meets her after decades to discover the fruits of the seeds of goodness which he had planted, ‘May you be the Mother of a Hundred Children’ describes the kind, organized and dependable nature of Sudha’s grandmother who is an expert midwife and a loving grandma and last by not the least, ‘Bombay to Bangalore’ an episode in Sudha’s life that changed the destiny of a little girl who she found on a train while traveling between the two cities.

The yellow cover of the book depicts a confident smiling face of the author herself. Reading this book is like eating popcorn, and you will be compelled to read one story after the other non-stop. This book can be your perfect companion while traveling or on a lazy afternoon.

Reviewed by: Nazneen Kachwala

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BOOK REVIEW – SAPIENS – A Brief History of Humankind – by Yuval Noah Harari

It always intrigued me as to how we have reached where we stand today as an entire human race and ‘Sapiens’ has a perfectly scientific, well-researched answer to this. Written by Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian, and researcher, the book delves into the complete process of evolution even before the existence of the history. The book is divided into four parts, each narrating the three important revolutions of humankind, namely, cognitive, agricultural, and scientific and the unification of the humans. Yuval’s style of writing is simple and you need not have a very distinguished scientific knowledge to understand the most important processes, and build-ups that have led us here today.

It blew my mind away on discovering the fact how the Sapiens – the wise, ousted other human species before the time in history including the Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, Homo Rudolfensis and many more some 50,000 years ago. Our siblings no longer exist on this planet and what caused them to disappear? The question is beautifully responded in every line of the first chapter. The second chapter reflects upon the fact what led Sapiens give up the life of the hunter-gatherers, cultivate wheat and settle down. Certainly, this shall leave you with many thoughts one being – did we tame wheat or did wheat tame us? Gradually, the book picks a pace and while developing a smooth tempo with the readers, it talks about the unification of humankind by the means of birth of religion and God and our ability to create stories. However, the era in which we live, the Scientific Revolution that has occurred just 500 years ago, is the one in which we have achieved several breakthroughs along with several irreversible damages as the by-products which creates another significant question in the minds of the readers – are Sapiens here to survive, grow and succeed till eternity, our shall this species of Humans too shall be overthrown by some other species called the Super-humans? The book is well-illustrated with pictures and timelines for a better understanding of the readers.

How did we suddenly arrive at the top of the food chain, develop languages, kingdoms, money, economics, the idea of capitalism, consumerism, cloning and the future of the Sapiens is all left in the book for the curious minds to find out.

Reviewed by: Nazneen Kachwala

Footpath

It was a dark night, the street was filled with shrill silence, no voice except that of a dog barking somewhere in a nearby lane was heard, and all the lamps of the streetlights were intact except one that was ceaselessly flickering. Vijju was sitting at the edge of a footpath. He was sleepless, his face was pale, eyes red and mind thoughtless. He constantly stared two of his friends who were sleeping on the footpath across the road, dead-tired.

All of sudden a car came speeding towards the pedestal; the driver seemed to have lost control and rushed to crush them both. Vijju ran to his friends who suddenly woke up to the hurtling sound of the motor-vehicle and were blinded by the bright flashing headlights.

It was all over very soon. Silence crept in again. The car now stood still in the middle of the street; its headlights blinked incessantly. The two friends startled by the mishap were breathless as they saw a shadowy figure walking away from them. One of them took out a dear friend’s photo from a small bag that he used as a pillow, while the other said, “I wish someone had saved Vijju the same way on that fateful night.” And they both saw Vijju gradually disappearing under the flickering lamp-post.

This Day

The night longs for more sleep
the day is mildly awake
the tussle between the two
turns my sky black
under whose shadow
two crows cuddle
on the giant peepal
straight in sight
the branches on whose runs
a fluffy squirrel
with a straw of hay
in all her might;
the tingling tunes of the heavy droplets
let loose on the earthen rooftop of my house
mixed with the creaks of crickets
and groans of the toads
brought to a sudden life,
I once danced
splashing all the puddles in my way —
now I watch this Godly scene
from a slight distance
in some dismay
yet when I hear the tiny streams
calling my name,
I, drenched in love
taste the rain.

© Nazneen Kachwala

The Girl and the Fruit Seller

I saw a little girl with tattered clothes and bare feet carrying a 10 rupees note and standing next to a fruit stall asking the seller to give her a sweet melon.

“It costs 20 rupees” replied the seller.

The girl pleaded him to give her the melon with the money she had but the seller bluntly refused. Agitated by his behavior, I entered the scene and asked him to give her whatever she wanted to which the girl hesitantly pointed towards the melon again.

“Give her this”, I ordered pulling out a 20 rupees note from my purse.

“It is for 30 rupees,” remarked the fruit seller.

“A while ago you were selling it for 20 rupees”, I retorted

“Yes, that is only for this girl. For you, it is 30 rupees.” he answered.

I looked at the little girl’s face and held myself back, handed over 30 rupees to that seller looking straight into his eyes trying to smash him without words. He turned his face away. I waved a good-bye to the girl and she smiled.

Next day at the same time, I saw the same fruit seller with his stall across the street. At about 20 steps from where he stood was another lady selling fruits with several buyers around her as the man sat ideal watching the scene.

The first thought that occurred to me was ‘Karma’. But eventually thinking about it again, I realized that who am I to think of Karma and judge someone. Maybe he himself wasn’t making enough for a living and sought a sort of compensation from me the other day. Who knows? God knows better.

― Nazneen Kachwala

2nd June 2019

A Packet of Milk

I was getting late for office that day and was rushing back home on my bike after the morning routine when I saw a packet of milk right in the middle of the road. “Someone must have mistakenly dropped it”, I thought and slowed down a bit to find out who it was but couldn’t figure out and moved ahead. Then I thought of picking it up and giving it away to some child on the street who could satisfy his hunger. Having gone back and forth with this though once or twice I took a U-turn to pick up the milk packet lying unattended and just as I was getting closer, I saw a rider smashing the packet under his wheel. All the milk was scattered on the road before my eyes.

I gave an angry look to the biker but soon understood that it wasn’t his fault. He didn’t do that on purpose. My delay in making a decision was the real culprit. And I understood that all the good intentions make the least sense when you cannot take a decision in time.

Nazneen Kachwala

1st June 2019

Banana & Monkey

As I sat on the park bench one-morning breathing freshness and watching the children play while the elder ones were throwing their arms up in the air and relentlessly laughing and, two lovers were sitting under the shade of a tree speculating their future, a huge group of some 20-30 monkeys raided towards me. I didn’t move but in moments they managed to draw all my attention. There were big males in the group but most of them seemed to be young mothers with their tiny ones suckling them. Many of them had scarce body hair, fragile limbs and looked just a few days old.

As they rolled on the grass and pulled each other’s tails while climbing the branches of a nearby mango tree bearing dozens of raw mangoes, three men walked slowly towards these joyful creatures who scattered as they neared. The men brought with them some bananas to feed these mischief mongers. One held the bag of fruits, one distributed it among our cousins and of course, the last man adhering to the religious custom stood there with a mobile phone capturing all this in his camera.

All the monkeys gracefully took one-one banana each as it was offered to them and gulped it down quickly. However, the man was left with a few more bananas and wanted to get done with it. He went ahead to give them out to a mother monkey who was resting nearby but she didn’t look interested. Insisting her to have it, the man kept stepping closer. To her discomfort, she groaned showing all her sharp teeth and sprinted with her baby on the top of the tree.

Wait… what? Why didn’t she take an extra banana? Yes, she wasn’t hungry but she could have saved for later hours when she could soon be hungry!

Ahh…that’s what we do, not them. The mastery of these creatures to live in the present and care least beyond that amazes me and makes me feel stupid of burdening myself by stockpiling stuff and calling it life!

How exciting could our lives have been, how many mountains could we have climbed, how many places could we have explored, how deep could we have dived, and how far could we have walked if we went down to just the essentials!

In Search of a Place Called Home

It is iftaar time. Men decked in pearl white kurtas with traditional golden caps and women ladened with ornaments and crisp dresses, all wearing some itr probably from the land of Arabs are hurrying towards the mosque to answer the call for prayer.

At the doorsteps of His home, I see a lady in late sixties stretching a tattered dupatta with both her arms and resting her head at the hinge of the gate, aimless looking into nowhere with a still freckled face. There’s also a wrecked man in his seventies hopefully gazing at every face, a child who can barely walk and young girl with a husband to please.

God’s house is full of worshipers, and at the backdrop of the ‘pious’ preaching, there is a constant surge of chattering not matching with my chord. Men and women are restlessly waiting for the Azan to fill in their empty pits with butter chicken and kebabs while the little child outside cries for some milk as his young mother cannot lactate.

I am sure the God I know has vacated the place long ago and is in search of a place called home to spare Himself of being suffocated.

A Sweet Stranger

Sometimes it takes ages to know someone and at times just a moment is enough.

Bollywood (Often)

Well, in my story this is partially true.

Around a month ago while I was up for a morning walk in the park, I was interrupted to slow down by someone I met for the first time. He walked towards me with a smile, greeted a good morning, gave me a sugar toffee and went on to walk in the opposite direction than mine. After a few minutes, we crossed our paths again and this time he gave me a small piece of coconut that he got as an offering from the nearby temple. I accepted it with a smile of gratitude. Next day I saw him again and he saw me too but he didn’t look at me and I too randomly ignored. Ever since then we kept seeing each other in the park quite often and occasionally exchanged smiles.

Two days ago, I met him again. This time, reading the inscription on my t-shirt he came to me with a broad smiling face and said, “You don’t look weird.” and gave me a small coconut piece. I laughed as I knew what he was talking about and popped the soft chunk into my mouth. When I walked a few steps ahead, again in the other direction than his, I realized that I was fasting that day and wasn’t supposed to have it. Unfortunately, I had to spit it out but could not hold on to my amusement as what just happened was rare. I don’t ever remember myself mistakenly putting anything in my mouth ever since I have been fasting for Ramadan or otherwise.

His charisma was such that I forgot about my Roza. He is a 70-year-young man whose name I know not. I call him a sweet stranger.