Feb 14, 2020

From my Bookshelf - The Cliffhangers by Sabin Iqbal

This year, I am resurrecting a long-dormant section of this blog. What is a bookworm to do but review books? 

There are quite a few reasons why I bought this book from MBIFL. First of all, I had seen the author as he had been one of the organizers of the writers' workshop that I had mentioned earlier. Also, the novel is set in a place that is close to us - Varkala, one of the most popular tourist spots in the district. I wanted to see how the writer had treated a modern story set in Kerala and I am always interested in seeing how the untranslatable parts of our language and culture have been handled.

Imagine my surprise when Sabin Iqbal turned out to be the father of one of my son's friends! So this time, I had no trouble asking him to sign my book and chat with him a little about his writing habits...

And he kindly posed when my son requested a picture...

Oh, by the way, Mr. Iqbal was also the festival director at MBIFL2020!

Due to my backlog of reading material and a certain writing challenge that is underway, I didn't get to the Cliffhangers till two days ago. And once I did, there was no putting it down. 

The novel deals with four young adults: Moosa, Thaha, Jahangir and Usman who live near the Cliff in Varkala. Their friendship was forged in common pain and humiliation in childhood and they still cannot let go of it even at the ripe old age of nineteen and must keep on secretly pestering the perpetrator in retaliation. By this time, the four friends have earned the name of the Cliffhangers. They keep each other company in the all the adventures of youth - love, weed, fights, sports and general mayhem. 

What sets them apart is that they have made a conscious choice to keep away from the polarizing politics and religion of their region. The foursome are not model characters, but they have unique ways of dealing with those friends who they deem to have got the initial signs of the disease called fundamentalism. And very effective it is too - when I read the novel, I dearly wished I could deal with a few friends and relatives the same way. 

Mr. Iqbal's writing is simple and powerful (I know, I know, Premam and Vimal sir have ruined those adjectives for all time to come!), there was nothing that sent me running to my dictionary. But there were some lyrical passages about the beauty of the seaside town that had me wishing I could go to Varkala this very moment and be there to see it for myself. Those lyrical passages are the relief spots in the otherwise hopeless outlook on the polarizing trends that are happening in our state, country and the world over. 

Of the characters, the most memorable for me are Moosa's Mother, the quiet and erudite Vivekanandan, Jonathan Boyce, SI Devan and the foursome themselves. The most memorable scenes are those of the cricket match, the curing of the fundamentalist disease as mentioned earlier, the killing of the white rooster and several others which, if I were to mention them all, would have me writing down the whole story here.  

Mr. Iqbal's novel reminded me of Golding's Lord of the Flies at times although there are few similarities. There is always that sense of impending doom hanging over the protagonists and the little world that they inhabit.

Another thing that piqued my interest is the foursome's repeated attempts to learn English. They failed miserably in their school years, can understand enough English to make out different accents, but don't have the confidence to speak. Mr. Iqbal returns to this obsession of the boys throughout the book. The uniquely Malayali love-hate relationship with English is something about which I could write a whole another post!

My recommendation for what it is worth: everyone should read this book. I would have recommended that it be a college text book for its linguistic and artistic merits as well as its core message, only that textbook committees might vote against it for the racy parts. My fifteen-year old read it, liked it and he was not fazed, but he forbade his 11-year old brother from reading it. 😀

Afterword: As I sat back after reading the novel, I thought about what it is that really holds the country called India together. Going by the nature of the volatile elements in the novel, this country should have been burned, razed to the ground or hacked into pieces by now. Why hasn't it happened then?

The answer is this. There is a silent majority in this country. These people keep their heads down and go about their daily business without trying to separate man from man on the basis of color, class, creed or politics. They understand that all people have the same basic necessities and if everyone cooperates, life can be peaceful and enjoyable. Some of them hold fast to the ideal that all people are equal. Some of them are wise enough to understand that the forces of Isfet and Ma'at (chaos and order in Egyptian mythology) are always at war and one or the other must have the upper hand at times. They bide their time till action becomes the need of the hour. And there are some who have the touch of the Divine and spread acts of compassion and care across all man-made divisions.

There will always be hotheads who are prompted by Ares (forgive me, my kids have transmitted their Rick Riordan addiction) to create unrest and war in the name of whatever they can cook up at that moment. As for me, my prayer is the same as this great son of India's:

Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it's way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever widening thought and action.
In to that heaven of freedom, my father,

-Rabindranath Tagore

Feb 7, 2020

Brimming with literary energy

As promised, I am back with pictures and impressions of the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters also known as MBIFL. For those who are not in the know, this year the capital city hosted the third edition of the festival. Kanakakkunnu Palace veritably turned into a palace of letters...

This time I was determined to visit the festival at least three out of four days, so I booked a "Delegate" pass online. I was so happy that I did because I was greeted with a pretty tote bag upcycled from an old bedsheet...

It reminded me of my own efforts way back in 2014. I was very glad to learn of the green protocol that was strictly enforced at the venue, which meant that even plastic water bottles were confiscated at the entrance. I was glad that I had carried my steel water bottle. The venue had plenty of kiosks where water, cooled sambhaaram and naruneendi juice were available. 

Unlike my random forays to the festival avenue in the past two years, I was determined to get information on all things festival this time around, so I followed MBIFL on Instagram. Five days before the festival started, I got an update saying that Mathrubhumi was conducting a workshop in English writing called "The Sentence". That is how I came to attend the workshop as I mentioned in my last post.

The workshop was led by Dr. Manu Remakanth who heads the Department of English at SN College, Chempazhanthy. He lent us two 'brushes' to help us with descriptive writing. Between his fascinating class and the group exercises, I didn't even notice the passage of time.

So here is my tribe with our 'chief' in the paper the next day...

This time around, I carried a notebook and a camera as well as a printed schedule of the program of the day for the festival. Organizing is everything! Simultaneous discussions/conversations/solos were conducted at hourly intervals at seven different stages spread throughout the venue. The last couple of years, I just dipped in at various stages trying to take in as much as I could. But this time I sat through whole sessions whenever possible, took copious notes and photographs so that I would not forget all those wonderful nuggets of information, names of fascinating books mentioned in passing or any other tidbit that a budding writer could use. 

The highlight of the festival for me was seeing Alexander McCall Smith and listening to him read an excerpt from one of his books. If you've been a reader of my blog from the beginning, you know that I'm a huge fan, especially of the Precious Ramotswe series. So entranced was I just being able to see and listen to him that I quite forgot my celebrity phobia and actually got up to ask him a question about my favorite series! I also told him that he and James Herriot are the authors I turn to when my mind's chatter becomes too much and I cannot concentrate on anything. And if that were not enough, I waited till he was off the dais and offered the great writer a handshake and thanked him for writing books! Major fan-girl moment!!!

It was all the more astonishing because just 45 minutes before this had happened, I had been to the book signing event of Dr. Shashi Tharoor and hadn't opened my mouth to say anything except "Good Morning" and "Thank you" and had spent the silent eternity it took for him to sign my book mentally kicking myself for being tongue-tied.

But meeting Mr. Smith took the bridle off my tongue. Later during the festival I was able to ask Anita Nair about the conception of Idris and questioned Devdutt Pattanaik about whether the Adhyatma Ramayana didn't read like a huge conspiracy for genocide.  I also quizzed a few other writers about whether they avoided potboilers in their reading while choosing only literary fiction and asked them to share their own favorite books on the craft of writing. 

All in all, it was a soul-enriching, uplifting and absolutely scrumptious three days for me. I gave the festival a miss on my birthday because there were several things on the home front to be done that day and I had to stay at home. Besides, I probably would have undergone spontaneous combustion from all that inspiration in unmitigated doses!!! Here are a few more pictures of MBIFL from my camera.

This is one time I wish I had at least five clones to take part in all the fascinating programs held at the various stages scattered around the venue. There are photos and videos galore on MBIFL's Facebook page and Instagram page (link given previously) if you want to checkout this boon to the book lovers of the city. Hope you will join me for the next edition!!!

Jan 31, 2020

Books Kon Mari-ed!!!

Today's post is a placeholder of sorts. This week has been hectic with the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters, the third edition of the literary festival held at the Kanakakkunnu Palace Grounds here in Thiruvananthapuram. It is, without doubt, the best thing in the year for me, because it is held during the first weekend of February and my birthday is on the first of February. This means that the festival has been like a special birthday celebration for me for the past three years!!!

In addition to the festival, this year I was lucky enough to attend an English writing workshop held at Mathrubhumi in the run up to MBIFL this week, where I met a few members of my tribe - people who are crazy about language and passionate about writing. The shot in the arm that single day has given me is immense. 

But this is all I can manage today. I will regale you with tales of #MBIFL2020 next week for sure. For the time being, do enjoy pictures of my newly Kon Mari-ed, Pinterested and Instagrammed bookshelves!!! 😁

Starting with white spines, sliding into VIBGYOR and then fading into browns and blacks...

Things will stay like this probably till the day I get fed up with trying to find a title and not succeeding. Like I did two days ago trying to find Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird  to add to my picture of books on writing and creativity..

It was not till the next day that I remembered that the spine of Bird by Bird was red and searched in that section! 

Once I get fed up, it will be back to dividing by English fiction, non fiction and Malayalam books, all sorted by author's surname in alphabetical order. 

But for the time being, don't they look pretty?

Of course, this collection does not include my kids' books, spiritual and scripture books, dictionaries and encyclopedias, coffee table books or my collection of craft books. 😂😂😂

Jan 24, 2020

Have you seen this guy?

The last time we saw him was on Xmas day. I was frying chicken. He came right into my kitchen demanding that he be appeased immediately - regardless of whether the cooking process was complete or not. He circled the first piece ravenously, then tore off chunks that he almost swallowed, without his usual appreciative noises. And once there was no trace of that piece left, not even a bone fragment, he asked me for another. Which went the same way. Having appeased his greed for the time being, he stretched out on the verandah and chatted to us at length, possibly about the delicious smells wafting around the neighborhood on Christmas day. 

Our Akrami whom you have met in this post hasn't come to our doorstep for a month now. His family - his spouse Chunchu and his daughter Pirate who were introduced to us last year, come regularly to our house and deign to accept food from us. But they are not great conversationalists. Every time we cook chicken or fish, we go out and holler, "Akramiiiiiii.....", but no yellow and white tomcat bounds over our wall and meows his way into our home. In vain DH has twice bought his favorite ulli vadas from Sushama tea stall at Pothencode to tempt him. They had to be given to our dog. 

I was sorting our photos last week and found several of Akrami. Here he is when he still liked to climb in our laps and be petted before he considered himself too grown up...

Cuddling up on the shelf in the garage..

Displaying his yogic prowess...

Making friends with our new car Gertie so that he can be warm in the heavy monsoon...

Curled up as small as possible on our front mat...

A good way to know what has happened to him would be to ask our neighboring auntie at whose house he was as frequent a visitor as he was at ours. DH mentions it frequently, but we haven't the heart to go and ask. We would like to think he has gone on a walkabout...

Meanwhile, if you see a large yellow and white tomcat wandering in your neighborhood, please try calling him Akrami... If he answers, try enticing him with fried puris, crisp ulli vadas, chicken or dried anchovies. No milk please. Please make sure to give him food in small doses and wait till he asks for more like in this video...

Once his tummy is full and when he stretches out in a chatty mood, please tell him there is a family of four eagerly awaiting his return. 

Jan 17, 2020

Infinite variety

Some people assume that a homemaker's life is humdrum and yawn-inducingly boring. One of my young cousins recently asked me, "What do you do with all that time?" I decided not to deluge her with my repertoire of activities and adventures. Of course, yes, part of it is routine work, like in any profession - cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, etc. But being in the middle of the country side gives me more scope for adventure. 

For example, two weeks ago, DH decided that his afternoon nap needed a bit more comfort and decided to switch on the AC. All was well until a few droplets of water came dripping into the room. Soon, ice-cold water collected in a pool on the floor. I went out to investigate. I poked an eerkkil into the vent and out came honey bees - the tiny non-stinging kind called cherutheneecha in Malayalam. Suspicious, I tasted a little of the sticky goo at the end of my eerkkil and yes, it was sweet! The service men came out last week and extracted this...

That is one end of my poking tool stuck in the wax. Fortunately, the hive had not become big enough to cover the cooling pipes or there would have been more trouble. This comes of not using the air conditioner for over eight months!

Yesterday morning brought home two workers bright and early. One of our coconut trees had succumbed to a rotting disease and lost its luxuriant head. For a few months it had been pointing an accusing finger at the sky right beside our gate. Passersby were careful to come in and tell us (another country life quirk!) that it was a hazard to the power line, our gate and our wall if it fell towards any of these. So our usual yard helper Vijayan Chettan brought along Mr. Mahin, a professional tree feller who in his heyday had worked in almost every district of Kerala. We also requested him to trim a bit of the jack fruit tree in the front and a cashew tree at the side, both of which were touching the house and were providing easy access for creepy crawlies and some creatures of the slithering variety to our upper floor.

One of my greatest hobbies in childhood was trailing around and being an assistant (read nuisance) to any skilled workers who came to our home - electricians, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, stonemasons - nobody escaped me. I would trail around them, fetch and carry for them and pester them with umpteen questions. I am sure that this habit has helped me with the home repairs I can do today. For example, in 2018, we got a kennel made for our half-grown puppy. The workers went away and after the required curing, we moved her to the new abode, only to find her jumping out through one of the several "ventilation" holes at the sides of the kennel! I bought some cement and tools, mixed up a batch with sand and used broken bricks to block the holes partially. Our Houdini was thus contained. 

Even today, I love to hover over specialized workers seemingly supervising, but in reality, gleaning new knowledge and listening to their professional lore. For example, all such workers will have at least one story of a miracle tool that was just perfect for their job. Mahin had one too. He recounted the story of a perfect bill hook he once had - he rhapsodized about the temper of the iron and the perfect condition he used to keep it in, only for some one to steal it from him. When he climbed the jack fruit tree to prune it, I cautioned him about my precious passion fruit vines that had finally deigned to give us fruits after four years of growth. He assured me that nothing would happen to them and here they are, intact...

Next he knotted a thick rope at 10-12 feet above the ground around the trunk of the coconut tree and had us assistants hang on to the other end after drawing it through the fork of the jack fruit tree. He was very careful in judging the angle and distance. Exhorting us to pull steadily on the rope, he hacked the base with an axe and made us tug experimentally once before cutting all the way round. Then he cut the other side too and rushed to us. We all grunted mightily and tugged with all our strength  (I forgot to yell "Timber!") and the coconut tree fell straight in to the sturdy arms of the jack fruit tree. The two of them used two thick trimmed branches of the jack fruit tree to lever it off from the tree's embrace. Mahin then chopped the tree into several parts and rolled them off to one side...

You can clearly see the top part that was rotted from the inside. Part of it broke off when it hit the tree as it fell. The marvel of Mahin's work is that no power tools were used - only rudimentary things like a ladder, pieces of rope, an axe, a bill hook etc. I really admired the way he sat down after each stretch of his job to use a file and sharpen his tools. So yesterday evening I hunted up my own file and sharpened my dull bill hook before hanging it up with a gleaming edge.

A homemaker's adventures do not stop there. I am trying a new crochet technique called tapestry crochet. For my first project I chose a bag that I saw on YouTube and purchased the pattern off Ravelry. It went along quite well till I reached the sides. The bag in the pattern's picture had chevron rows up the side, but mine was coming out in diamonds...

Usually I work with written patterns, but this had no color A, B etc. in the written part, only in the diagram. I couldn't make out where I went wrong. So I unraveled back to the point where the pattern began to look different from the picture and I can tell you, unraveling crochet in one yarn is a snap, but a headache with two yarns!!! Then I kind of made it up as I went along and now it looks like this...

That's more like it. Distinctly chevron-y. 

Culinary adventures are a whole another set. This month, I tried making Medu vada or Uzhunnu vada as it is called in Malayalam. All my recipes said "Use as little water as possible to grind the soaked grain" and I succeeded only in heating up my mixer. The resultant vada was perfect in shape, but also was tough enough to fell ripe mangoes from trees if need be. In my second attempt, I used my electric stone grinder and ground the dal very finely, but found that more than the stipulated amount of water is actually required to make the dough/batter fluffy enough to make soft vadas. This time, they were crunchy and tasty, but looked a little wonky...

But then as my DH says, tasty beats wonky every time...😁

So to answer my cousin and several other people who ask, "What do you do at home all day?" I would reply, homemaking is a never-ending adventure of infinite variety - if one chooses to make it so!!!

Jan 10, 2020

On matters of the spirit - Prajna Yoga practice and results

Last year I completed reading Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari's take on what human evolution will look like in a few decades. He predicts the creation of a super powerful rich section of society that will have all the new technology at their fingertips while the havenots suffer from the lack of the same. He speaks of the addition of biotechnology to the homo sapien that will finally create the homo deus, a completely new species. But Harari omits an important facet of human life even though he traces the evolution of religion and science through history. I am not sure why he left it out since he is a dedicated practitioner of Vipassana meditation. May be because he is trying to show people the direction scientific development should not take?

The factor that he has left out in the book is the spiritual evolution of mankind - especially that which comes through practices like meditation and yoga. As it happened, I have been witness to this new unfurling of human potential just this last year. My kids attended the Prajna Yoga course conducted by Art of Living. My elder son Kunjunni attended it in February, 2019 and Ani did it in April. In my previous post I have described how I reached the decision to admit them to the course. Children from the age of five to eighteen can attend this course.

The course looks deceptively simple. It lasts for 3-4 hours each for two days. When the kids come home, they are to follow a daily regimen of a combination of physical exercise, breathing and guided meditation that lasts for around 20 minutes, twice a day for the first 40 days. Thereafter, the practice can be done just once. There is also a small 'homework' component that takes around 10-15 mins. The course asserts that children will be able to access their intuition in a fruitful, consistent manner that will manifest itself in several ways according to each child's personality.

I have seen live demonstrations and videos of what Prajna Yoga children can do that would probably read like tricks if I were to write them down here. Instead, let me tell you what I have seen my children do. Ani, my 11 year-old was the first to exhibit new abilities. Within the second month of practice, he started identifying colours and reading alphabet and number flash cards while blindfolded, by just touching the cards. Then he could identify colours without touching them and fill in pictures with appropriate colours. Now he can even read text on smartphones and watch videos while blindfolded. Kunjunni who is 15 is slower to develop abilities (because the older we get, the further developed our logical mind will be, making it harder to access our intuitive mind). He can now match colored cards and identify letters and single digit numbers in one or two attempts while blindfolded. 

These are the obvious changes that I have seen in them. But there are other, subtler changes. For example, Ani used to be very reluctant to leave his bed in the mornings. After I rousted him from his cozy nest, he would curl up on the sofa for another snooze till I found him during the morning rush and set him off again. Since doing the course, not one day has he lingered and that too, I wake him up at 5 am, one whole hour ahead of his usual waking time. If we are going on a journey and have to leave at 5 am, both kids get up and do the exercise at 3 am if need be. 

Although I'm an avid crafter, my boys have seldom shown any interest in it. Imagine my surprise when Kunjunni asked me for my Kumihimo board and braided himself a flat braid bracelet, not losing patience even though he had three failures on his hands before he made one that was just right. Ani had been an avid science fan early in his childhood and would draw a lot of imaginative pictures and comics, filling several notebooks each year. Over the last couple of years, most of his interactions with friends were about games that they played on their phones or computers. Naturally, he came home and pestered me to let him play them too. But DH and I seldom allowed him to do so. And in the same last couple of years, I noticed that he no longer drew much. But now he has started drawing again. He has stopped pestering us with demands for online games. And he has started reading books with a passion, his current favorites being Rick Riordan's books.

Just yesterday, I was KonMari-ing my book collection. Ani came along and gasped at the pile of books that no longer "sparked joy". He hates giving away anything. So to distract him, I took the first book that came to hand among the 'keep' pile - it happened to be an unabridged version of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I gave it to him some time after 8 pm. He put it down only for dinner. Once or twice he came and asked me about some horses (to say the truth, I didn't remember any of them except Ginger and Black Beauty). I shooed him away saying he should find it out himself. Just after 10 pm, Ani came back looking glum and said he'd finished it. He had been harrowed by the horses' experiences. After he went to bed, I checked the book. He had finished 200 pages in less than two hours! 

As I said, the changes are sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle. But changes there are, for sure. We might be witnessing the beginning of the next period in the evolution of human beings without the aid of biotechnology or spontaneous gene mutation! I can't help but think that this is the best investment we have made for our children, one of the greatest gifts that we have given them. 

What blessings are stored in their future, I have no idea. For now, my job is to make sure that they continue Prajna Yoga practice with dedication and without interruption.

Jan 3, 2020

Hello 2020!!!

Aah, it feels good to be back in blogland! First, let me wish you all a happy new year and decade! Something about 2020, the symmetry of the number may be, gives it a special verve and meaning. It makes me feel that this year will be special! This year will see momentous events! This will be a year of accomplishments and great surprises of the best kind! Talk about being a Pollyanna! 😃

Although 2019 started off for me with a series of health issues and quitting a job, it went on to be one of the best years for me personally. This is the year that marked my return to Art of Living. Today I have completed 250 continuous days of Sudarshan Kriya practice - the longest I've ever done! But the way it came about was truly remarkable.

Having been a stay at home mother for several years, I was totally out of touch with the younger generation. What I encountered in my short-lived job of 5 months was a shocking eye-opener for me. Granted that the 18-year-old young adults I had to teach were among the lowest scorers, the barest scrape-throughs in the current academic arena, their attitude to life was what actually shocked me. They had no respect for teachers, barely stood up or greeted me when I went to class and preferred talking to each other or playing PUBG after bunking classes, grew aggressive and got into fights at the drop of a hat, turned out very poor academic work and were not at all interested in studies. This was the majority section. Then there was another set that was very docile in class - because they were stoned out of their minds! And all these were students whose parents were not well off and had to pay hefty semester fees to get them a degree. Only a handful of girls and one or two boys showed any interest, sense of responsibility or academic promise.

The breaking point for me was when one of the better students took a long period of absence and then came back for her semester exam. Her normally smiling face was swollen and she seemed very subdued. A tearful mother told us that when classes started, she had asked for a smart phone since "all my friends have one". But soon, the use of the phone escalated to extremely long periods of time till she was not sleeping and started showing signs of emotional disturbance. The distraught parents confiscated the phone and it triggered an uncontrollably violent reaction that resulted in her trashing half of their house. She had to be admitted in hospital and treated for withdrawal symptoms! 

I thought about my own kids. We have been doing our best to inculcate good values and keep them away from online games and screen time. Our elder is 15 and younger one not far behind. Within a couple of years, they too will have to go out in the world among such people and technology. How can we help them have a solid base that would stand them in good stead when we are not around to protect them? That is when I talked to my colleague Janu who is an active participant in Art of Living activities. She told me about a course called Prajna Yoga that seemed to fulfill my requirement of a good daily spiritual practice for kids to follow. Little did I know the full scope of the course then - but that is matter enough for another post.

To cut a long story short, I got my kids to do Prajna Yoga, which in turn kindled my desire to rejoin Art of Living. I had done the Basic Course back in 1999. In April 2019, I did its current version, the Happiness Program and started doing Sudarshan Kriya on a daily basis. It was my greatest regret that I had not been able to do an Advanced Course when I first joined AOL and I was able to attend it in August this year in residence at the Ashram at Thiruvananthapuram. I was also lucky enough to attend the Sahaj Samadhi program in November and have been meditating daily since!

After 250 days of practice, when I turned back to look at 2019, the sight truly staggered me. Why? Remember how much I struggle with perfectionism, procrastination and lack of productivity? I was constantly given to just accomplishing whatever was just required for the day and left it at that. Craft projects just stayed in my head and on my computer while my supplies languished indefinitely. I had a plan to update the tired curtains at Karthi and in 2018, bought enough material to sew curtains for the living and two bedrooms. I stopped after making curtains for the living room. And all those bundles of curtain material sat undisturbed for a whole year. And now...

For this Onam, I had a brainwave to sew an apron using the tired and overused apron that I had been using at the time as a template and bought some material for it. To my own surprise, I put my plan to work within just 2 months of buying the material!!!😀 It took me just two hours to complete from start to finish!

And talking about crafts... Here goes my 2019 parade. First, another Anchor long stitch project, now proudly adorning our living room...

Then, a crocheted birthday shawl for a friend (I had planned it for her birthday in 2018)...

An infinity scarf for a young friend in Delhi...

And all this in the midst of handling all the daily jobs at home, getting the kids to do Prajna Yoga twice a day without break, helping out three clients with language correction in their doctoral theses and reading around 140 books. The only thing I didn't do regularly was updating my blog!

Besides this jump in productivity, I have also experienced more joy and fewer black moods in general as well as quicker recovery from colds and fevers. I have also become much more laid-back in general because this academic year my elder is going to face his first board exams and normally I should have been stressed out. But I am not. And people don't push my buttons as easily as they used to. The greatest surprise of all has been the way I've stuck to something good for me for 250 days in a row!

So yes, 2019 has been a great year and I am so looking forward to accomplishing more in 2020! I hope all of you are beginning the new year with great hope and anticipation! See y'all next week!

From my Bookshelf - The Cliffhangers by Sabin Iqbal

This year, I am resurrecting a long-dormant section of this blog. What is a bookworm to do but review books?  There are quite a fe...