The Hidden Life Of Trees

As you may have noticed, its not often that I have posted book reviews. Today I am compelled to write about an amazing book that has accidentally come my way. Accidentally because it was spotted at our library by my husband who immediately brought it home for me! And I have been glued to it since…

Peter Wohlleben, trees, book

The Hidden Life Of Trees by Peter Wohelleben is a book for all tree lovers. The author is a forester from Germany and naturally he mostly describes trees in Germany and Europe. Beech. Pine. Birch. Ash and so on…Tropical trees barely find a mention yet I am sure, the ‘behaviours’ that he has described is quite likely apply to trees in my part of the world too. 

Do trees have emotions? How do trees know when to break out into bud? How do trees defend themselves from pests or infections? Do trees talk to each other? What about competition among forest trees? Who wins and why? Who loses and why? Do trees have a ‘brain’ and where is it? Did you know that forests have a ‘wood wide web’ which is a network of  fungi in the soil and this network is vital for survival of plants? 

These are just a few of the questions on any nature lover’s mind and the author has answers in very simple, easy-to-understand, non-botanical terms. His eloquent words took me on a walk in the German forests as I could visualise the towering tree canopies, the dense dark under story…. Every chapter gives an amazing insight into the apparently silent life there.

Somewhere over the years, trees have never been thought of as intelligent thinking beings. “The Hidden Life Of Trees” puts an end to such ideas. And there is scientific research cited at the end of the book to prove it! 

Our lives are closely interwoven with those of the flora and fauna. We need to understand and protect those if humans have to survive on earth. this book is a step in that direction. 

Take care folks!

The Hidden Life Of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Publisher Penguin Random House India

Unanswered by Kunal Narayan Uniyal

I read, a lot, both online and the old fashioned paper books. I buy a few but I source most of my books from a library. What I don’t do is review books. The reason is simple, some one has given all they have and more to create something (possibly unique) and I dont think I am best qualified to comment on it. However, I do comment whether I like the book or not, do I recommend it or not and so on… 

Recently, I happened to read an e-version of a book called Unanswered by Capt Kunal Narayan Uniyal, which was sent to me by Novemberschild @romspeaks . The Publisher is Samaya Sakshaya

What sparked my interest was the name… Unanswered. Would it be a Mystery/Thriller/Romance?? Nothing had prepared me for what I eventually read… an intensely philosophical book. It is the author’s spiritual journey put forth in a combination of text and prose. It is the result of extensive introspection and reading of ancient texts. If you are looking for light reading, then this is not for you. 

Capt Uniyal discusses various concepts like Immortality, Morality, Ego, Pain and Suffering, Death, Religion. He has also put forth his thoughts in the form of poems. An unusual and effective style that brings forth his thoughts and ideology as the author has mastery over both prose and poetry. The chapter the got me totally interested was the one dealing with What are prayers and Why do we pray?  Yet another very interesting chapter is ‘The Chosen One’ where Capt Uniyal writes about people who have walked a different path. He concludes this segment with, “…  Know that you are the chosen one; know that you are different; know that you can bring new hope and make a difference to mankind. You are an individual soul, climbing the stairs of evolution, faster and higher than your counterparts. Alone walks the chosen one, who dares to think. But he is surefooted and knows, without looking back, that someday the trail carved by him will be walked upon !…” 


‘Unanswered’ is highly recommended for anyone who thinks beyond the mundane existence and is reluctant to read the accepted ‘texts’ for answers to questions that would obviously arise from the said thinking. This book will be the first stage that will prepare the thinker/reader for an in-depth journey into the search for peace, tranquility, truth and maya.  

A word of advice, do not rush through the book, instead read it one chapter at a time. Think, introspect about what the author has to say and reread the chapter if required. Only then move on. 

Stay Happy everyone

Book Review: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

For the first time, I began reading a book after I read about it on  Twitter, namely Atul Gawande’s  ‘Being Mortal’. That plus the fact that it was a book written by a medico. We have heard of bankers, engineers, Indian-origin folks who have turned writers but doctors… I find that ‘Being Mortal’ is on the list of 10 best health books in 2014 by The Huffington Post.

Ageing, old age, geriatrics,

The book left me with mixed feelings. I usually like to complete a book in one go but this is of a different category. The reason is not because it fails to hold attention but actually because it does just that. The ideas that Gawande puts forth compel the reader to think, to introspect, to look at ones own life and family and the decisions one has made or have to make. This demanded that I put the book away to gather my thoughts. 

Book Review is not a correct term for the post, I am not really in a position to ‘review’ it. Obviously a lot of hard work has been put in by people much better placed than me in the publishing industry. My Impressions would be a better word, I guess. Anyway here goes…

As the title suggests, the book deals with old age and all that it brings along for the person and people around him*. Aging is much much more than greying hair and wrinkled skin and lost teeth. In fact those are the least of one’s problems. Gawande has drawn extensively on his medical experience to describe how we and the medical world deals with reducing mobility, medical issues like dementia/cardiac/neurological problems etc that are an integral part of growing old. The final chapters deal with cancer and how people react and deal with impending death. 

Aging does not discriminate between nationality, gender, financial status or designation. It happens to all and each one faces different changes and our reactions vary from person to person. How do we accept the restrictions that slowly creep upon us? How does the family react? How do the doctors react? 

As the author has said, not many doctors take up Geriatrics because its not a glamorous stream nor a highly paying one. Probably not as rewarding in terms of achieving medical goals as well.

What should be the focus of medical management? Should the steps adopted be convenient to the immediate care-giving family members? Should it be to make the individual  happy and mentally occupied? Or to enable him to continue a routine that he enjoys and looks forward to?  Or keep him well-fed and safe so that his medical parameters are optimum? The latter often means a strictly regimented routine that defeat the previous goals. Often medical interventions are painful, expensive and traumatic for the patient. At times they only delay the inevitable. Are they even worth while then? Who makes these difficult choices?

In India, families still continue to look after the old and infirm and sending them off to old-peoples homes is not common. Yet. Gawande tends to look favourably on this system that too has its drawbacks. He has analysed the rise and fall of the ‘assisted living’ concept and shared results of several studies that affect emotional states of the elderly. Notable among these is a path breaking ‘experiment’ by Bill Thomas to ‘inject’ life into a nursing home. 

There exists a dire need to make the twilight years dignified, happy, lively and enjoyable. 

The author is brutally frank when describing his feelings when he first ‘met’ death and towards the end of the book describes his father’s final years. He has quoted moving examples of real life people most of them from the USA but those
living in India can easily see similarity in one or many of those. 

‘Being Mortal’ is not a book one ‘enjoys’ because it makes the reader uncomfortably aware about the choices they may have made or have to make. It is not light reading. 

Will I recommend it? Yes. If nothing, it will spur us to plan for our own old age. 
Of course, the best laid plans often do not work because Fate has something else in store. 

Have a healthy and happy 2015 folks!

*For the sake of convenience, I have used a male reference. It can just as well be a ‘her’. 

The Best of Ruskin Bond

An un-put-downable book after a long time…

I happened to get hold of “The Best of Ruskin Bond” an anthology of his prose and poetry and was totally enthralled  by his work. The stories are autobiographical and describe his childhood, the various personalities that have influenced his life. His love of nature and trees comes through palpably specifically in “Bird Life in the City” and “In the Garden of My Dreams.”

“At Home in India” is something that each one of us should read and share especially if anyone has any difficulty in articulating their patriotism.

The travel writings immediately transported me to Mandakini valley as I almost felt myself seeing the Alkananda and the Ganga. This book has put Dehra Doon on the top of my travel list!! An awesome inspiration for a person wanting to write about my travels…

I do not know the
technical definition of a ‘short’ story but these are about 5/6 pages
long and they commanded my attention like no other in the recent past.

There are several sentences that have stayed with me long after I put away the book. Here are a  couple from “The Kitemaker” but every story is a treasure by itself. 

“Now everyone hurried, in a heat of hope, and delicate things like kites and daydreams were trampled underfoot.”

“There is a great affinity between trees and men. We grow at much the
same pace, if we are not hurt or starved or cut down. In our youth we
are resplendent creatures, and in our declining years we stoop a little,
we remember, we stretch our brittle limbs in the sun, and then, with a
sigh we shed our last leaves.”

Trees, humans, Bond, India, short stories
Image taken from Peguin India

Go grab the book and read!

Adi Parva

Adi Parva
Churning of the Ocean
by Amruta Patil

I have always found it
fascinating to read stories written from a different perspective. After
all the other view point may actually change the entire way we ‘see’

Mahabharata is on our ancient texts and all of us have heard it in
bits and pieces in the form of different stories. Lord Krishna’s
dialogue with Arjun on the battlefield is commonly taught and explained
as a standalone piece. Every reader can find their own perspective.
Yet each character in this epic has his or her own story which is often
not told hence not commonly known. Adi Parva by Amruta Patil is a story
told by a woman narrator, the River Ganga. It presents the epic to us
from the viewpoint of the women therein.

Gandhari who blindfolded herself when she was married to the blind Prince Dhritarashtra who later became King of Hastinapur.
The unmarried Kunti (called Pritha in her childhood) who gives up her first born.

book is rich with colourful picture panels that powerfully express
the author’s thoughts. I must add that this is not a text heavy book
which makes totally unusual. I bought the book on Flipkart but it may be
available in the major bookstores as well. It takes time to digest the
conveyed ideas but well worth a reading.

“Pune Queen of the Deccan”

After our recent Heritage walk, we have been in an overdrive to locate this particular book. Sadly its not easily available but happily we did manage to borrow a copy. “Pune Queen of the Deccan” is a coffee table book by Jayamala Diddee and Samita Gupta that explores origins, development and growth of Pune as a city. It would have been so easy to digress into India’s history etc but the authors have stayed true to this theme.

The book covers most of what I have described in my earlier post but in greater detail and accompanied by photographs and sketches and maps. That the authors’ love this city is evident in their painstaking research and attention to detail. Kasba Peth was among the first inhabited areas and the book deals with its changing face over the years. It goes on to describe development and layout of the Peths, the Cantonment and how the Colonial City metamorphosed into a Metropolis.

Interestingly all images in the book are in black and white (even those captured in modern times!) which lends it an interesting look.Some are especially eyecatching:

  • Class in progress in a girls school: probably Huzur Paga: the girl students are wearing sarees!!
  • A collage of late Nineteen century faces of Pune citizens
  • The Flood of 1961
  • A priest getting ready to drive a two wheeler
  • The photograph showing a famous drug store on MG Road (Main Street). This building is almost the same even now if you can ignore the crowd…

The simple matter of fact style of writing grips your attention and does what it is meant to- take you back several hundred years to the Peshwa era and before. The accompanying maps make it easy to visualise route taken by invaders or those who fled.

However this is not a book to be read by the bedside. Being of a healthy weight and dimensions, make sure you are comfortably seated to avoid damaging the book or yourself!!

Look around your favourite bookstore or you can look for it on Flipcart. This is one book that is a must have for those brought up in Pune and those who have chosen to make their home here…


What is it with Vampires?

I recently read all four books of the Twilight saga series by Stephanie Myer. I was terribly impressed not only with the story line, characters etc but with fundamentals that the books advocated via its characters for youth. Namely: looking after parents, taking up a job to support your studies, studying, a NO to premarital sex (of course the reasons here were quite different but none the less!),
I also watched two movies based on the first two books and this made me into a vampire fan!
Visit the author’s site here for more details about the movies and books.

While channel surfing last evening, I happened to catch a movie called Love Bites on MGM. I had missed the initial part but within a few minutes it was quite clear the movie was about a 300 year old vampire- Zachary and a young city girl- Kendall. No gory stuff as people that Zachary bit actually seemed to enjoy it!! They probably turned into vampires but that bit I was not clear about… Kendall decides to help Zachary turn human again and helps him adjust to the modern world. The movie has strong romantic overtones despite two ‘villains’ namely Dwight (Kendall’s ex flame) and Nerissa (a female vampire from Zachary’s era). Kendall and Zachary are in love and she is pregnant with his child. Just a day prior to Zachary turning human the story takes a twist.
This is a link to the story:

From what I read up on the Internet, this movie seems to be made in 1993. Of course vampires have always been a popular movie subject but usually always the ‘bad guys’. However seeing these movies, has me wondering if their stock is on the uptrend now??
With Adam Ant as the vampire in Love Bites and Robert Pattison playing the cold but dazzling hero in Twilight and New Moon, I guess vampires may be losing their ranking as villains!

What? You havent read the books or seen these movies??
Then you know what is to be done this weekend… Visit burrp!tv here to know when Love bites is to be screened next…

We Are Like That Only

Being an avid shopper and firm believer in ‘retail therapy’ I seized the first opportunity to read Rama Bijapurkar’s “We are like that only”.  Besides all those wanting a ‘pie’ of the Indian marke, this book is also a must read for consumers. 

Our decisions on why we choose a particular soap, TV, car or paint affects the fortunes of these corporates. As consumers we must know how each of our decisions is analysed or interpreted. 
Written in a simple easy to understand style (there is enough management jargon and figures for the corporate honchos)  “We are like that only” takes an in depth view of all aspects of our lives. 
Even the evolution of the marriage market has come under the scanner. 
Though not a conventional thriller, it certainly will hold your attention all through. The book was published in 2007 but thoughts expressed therein continue to be valid.
Read my review here.
Happy shopping! 

A Classic Romance

I have decided to put down my ideas of books I have read over the years and ofcourse current publications.

I read ‘Gone With the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell when in class nine. I was happiest when my daughter too enjoyed every page of my well thumbed copy. I watched the movie much much later so all these years my mental visualisation of the cotton fields, Mammy waddling in and out of the house, Scarlett’s famous green gown made from curtain cloth or her final rush to find Rhett as she discovers her love for him are owed to the author’s powerful words. 
This classic is heads my list of romance novels. I can still read it at any time, cry with Scarlett in her times of distress or  get angry or laugh with her. 
Happy Reading everyone!