The 100 Greatest Novels

I am not a fan of fiction. Well, I WAS not a fan of fiction. However, I am now actively looking to change my reading interests. I think that this is necessary. More so, because at times, I go without reading books for days, since I spend days in finding and finalising next topic and books to be considered in non-fiction. Reading non-fiction is a careful exercise. You cannot read just any author. Also, you cannot be prejudiced against any author. I deliberate quite a lot on choosing the subject/author of my next book. Even though my political, social and economic opinions are quite firm and stable, I do like to, and in fact I do, read opinions from those having a view different from mine and see the world and its events differently.

From some time now, I have been wanting to make full strides into world of fiction. I made a few in the past, when I read Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot. I did make a few this year too. This year, I read Don Quixote, but since I am not too satisfied with the translation that I read, I would once again take up this book for reading. Now, I am setting my eyes and cognitive powers on the following list:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/oct/12/features.fiction 

I would be reading each book on this list, over next few years. I will start from the 100th title, which is Austerlitz by W G Sebald and move towards the 1st title, which is Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes. 

The journey through these 100 books will be long. Many world events will happen, my life will change, I may be deprived of the smaller luxuries that I happen to have currently at my disposal by my good fortune, many relationships will be broken, many new will be forged, many democracies will fall, many dictatorships will thrive, in short – a lot may happen and will happen over the course of finishing this list, and that in itself will make for a remarkable memoir!

Off to Austerlitz! 

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Week 5 – of tragedies

July 14, 2014 – July 20, 2014

While the week before ended with jubilant triumph of the German football team, the week gone by was full of tragic news from across the globe. However, I will only explore the two most prominent.

The first major tragic news was that of the decades old struggle between Israel and Palestine once again escalating into a major strife. The strife picked up when a Palestinian group, Hamas, fired series of rockets on cities of Israel and posing danger to lives of its citizens. Most of the world’s popular media is quite unambiguous on labelling Israel as the force of evil, a “terrorist” state that feeds on death of “civilians”. I see people on social media asking such diabolical question as: Whom do you support between Israel and Palestine? For sake of sanity, this is not an English Premier League football match, it is war, where people are being KILLED. However, the media, both conventional and social, want you to take a side, form an opinion and support it to the hilt. With the abundance of information at disposal, the world is sadly divided into two broad political ideologies that can be identified as Left and Right. Their positions are strict. A Leftist thinker cannot support Israel and a Rightist won’t be Rightist enough if the “support” were to go to Palestine. Such deep divisions exist in areas as broad as climate change, global warming, oil & petroleum, homosexuality etc. The positions are deeply entrenched and the world is starkly divided along these positions.

Now, the question of Israel and Palestine - Whom do I “support”? I read news from that region daily. Dead bodies of men, women and countless children – and then I see how Israel army finds a terrorist den and a weapon cache hidden in or beneath mosques, civilian settlements, schools etc. in Gaza. My support to Hamas or Palestinian groups fighting for “reclamation of land” is, therefore, non-existent. Decades ago, European Jews headed to the region what is now called as Israel-Palestine to have a nation for themselves, around their religious site, and they built a remarkable nation, a nation that grants maximum political freedom to its citizens, highest in that region [in fact, in whole world], a nation that has only successful democracy in that region, a nation that grants maximum economic freedom, a nation that also has space for religious freedom, only one from that region [the evidence for this is that Israel has considerable muslim population, and they provide freedom of religion to its residents], a nation that has considerable amount of anti-Zionist political personalities and who are also present in their parliament, a nation that is among the leading in number of patent application filings, innovation metrics and entrepreneurship. I, therefore, cannot bring myself to “indirectly support” a rogue terror outfit like Hamas, by castigating Israel. Make no mistake that the political lines are so deeply drawn that the battle of perception is lost as soon as I blame Israel for its “atrocities” or for “killing more people than Hamas kills”. Israel seems to have lost that battle in face of hostile media that seems to find virtues in Hamas striking Israel cities with 4-5 rockets per day.

Yet another tragedy that stuck in middle of the week was that of crash of MH17 – a Malaysian jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The crash killed 298 people that were onboard. The blame games have started. Russia blames Ukraine. Ukraine blames Russia. The Western press has its target i.e. Putin sorted out too. The jet was flying over region of conflict and was sucked into Ukraine-Russia conflict. When the passenger and crew would have boarded the flight, it must not have appeared, even in their wildest of dreams, that they will never be able to complete the journey. The loss of near and dear ones is tragic. Humans form a magical web of relationships around them and a loss of one results in a deep abyss in that web. Though, the abyss is filled over time and the dead or lost are forgotten.

I do not think I want to write about the “good” part of my personal life while making a mention of above two tragedies. I do wish that Israel and Palestine reach a long lasting peace, and Hamas is not going to enable that. Palestinians must establish itself as a nation, set up institutions of equal ideas as Israel, grant jews equal rights as the muslims are given in Israel, and then only would they make a legitimate case of settlement. Israel cannot have peace with terror outfits like Hamas. No nation can and no nation should. A nation can only have peace with another nation that represents the collective will and conscience of its citizens. If you are saying that Hamas represents that, then….

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staring into nothing…

It is not a recent incident. It happened more than a month ago. A dear friend from college days asked me,” So, what do you want to do in your life? Where do you want to be in next five years? What car do you plan to buy? What are your plans moving ahead?” I had no answer. I was staring into nothing.

I am a sort of person who thinks about future and who is forward-looking.  I like to plan. I like to balance. I like to lead; both people and life. Therefore, my thoughts and subsequent actions are mostly dictated by my zest to lead my life in the direction I want, instead of letting it lead me in the direction it wants. However, it is not easy to separate the causes in life from their effects in life. They so vastly overlap or intermingle with each other that it is difficult to tell whether any of your actions was solely the cause of any event in your life. It is not easy to tell that when and where events/effects morph into causes and causes morph into events/effects, and all without your bidding. Therefore, I am not able to tell how much successful I have been in this endeavour, even though this has been the sole endeavour of my life.

Now, when this friend asked these set of questions, and I had no answer, I wondered whether I have stopped being a planner of future. I was surprised that I had no answer. I was mum for a few seconds, staring into a shunya (nothingness), and then just fumbled,” No idea!”. He had his plan laid out. For until next 5 years, and broad blueprint  of next 10 years or so. I was, of course, happy to hear his plans, however, deep inside, I was stunned to find the shunya into which I was staring.

I did wonder. I was sad and disappointed. Where had the zest gone? What had happened to all that spirit which led me to some of the most remarkable experiences of life? Have I slowed down? Have I learnt to live the way life want me to? Have I mellowed? I deliberated over it for long. I still have not been able to define my life for next 5 years. I have not planned at all. I am not feeling the urge to do so at all. I find myself incapable of doing so too. The immediate concerns on my mind these days are- what exercises to do in gym today, what to have for dinner, where to go for reading this book, what book to take up in next 2-3 months, how to work on a particular assignment from work, how to make the office work seamless and hassle-free, how to maintain a work-life balance, how to comply with various deadlines that are integral part of my profession and where to go for a long walk on this weekend, and many such things. I hardly think about my long-term future trajectory, either personal or professional.

I do not know where I want to end up, whether I intend to hop from country to another, from one city to another or I want to settle down in a city that I can call as both-my professional and family home. I really do not know whether I wish to put an end to this peripatetic life in coming years, and settle down in a nice city filled with nice people. I have never faced such circumstances before. The circumstances where I do not know where I am leading my life to. I am sure that life is still not leading me, it’s me who is leading the life. Even though, I have my own doubts on this assertion, I like to think that I am leading my life, even if to some unknown and unexplored destination. I am staring into nothing. It is either too bright or too dark for me to see what lies ahead.

For time being, I have kept plannings of future personal and professional trajectories aside. I am now focussing on nothing. Perhaps, it is good to plan for a day, where you have more control, than to plan for five years or decade or more, where you are unknowingly a second fiddle to circumstances and events around you.

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Week 4 – In sleeplessness

July 7, 2014 – July 13, 2014

What a sleepless week! Almost every day was sleepless, it also ended with a sleepless night, watching FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. What a superb match, what a goal by Mario and what a play by both the teams, though disappointed in Messi. The week started on a high note and amidst lot of work at office. Many new inventions, many new clients and much newer challenges.

This year marks fifth year in my current profession, and I find the work to be challenging every other day. New clients, new inventions, new ways of thinking, new ways of ideation, new ways of analysis, new interpretations, new terminologies, new meanings – I encounter this novelty every other day at work. A significant portion of the week went into meetings away from office, at clients’ site.

I wonder whether I should also capture, in my diary, the news I read, the opinions I formed, and the comments I had for various global events. I have done it for sports, but is it good to touch the sensitive and alienating world of politics? I think, I should. It is big part of my life. To have opinion on political, social and economic ideologies across various nations and to read about them – is certainly a big part of my life and if I don’t record this, my memoirs will not exactly be my memoirs then.

Brace up for new look!

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Week 3 – In frenzy

30/06/2014 – 06/07/2014

A little late, but as is said better late than never. I have this queer tendency and I am sure many might be having it. However, I do not think it manifests as darkly on all as it does upon me. Whenever I break a schedule, or I am not punctual to a place or an event, or I have to adjust deadlines by delaying them, I feel uneasy. I am sure that many do. However, I am not sure how many spend day in guilt for having broken a schedule, a promise, or of arriving late at an event. At times, I have had sleepless nights. From last two days, for having missed writing about the last week on Sunday, I was going through similar spasm in my mind and thoughts. I feared that this will spell end of my “resolution” or break in commitment towards my blog. I do not like to break commitments; I do not quite feel myself when I do so.

However, as far as the week is concerned, what I can recollect is mainly watching multiple sporting events. World Cup quarterfinals, Wimbledon final and a cricket match played between MCC and ROW at Lord’s. Federer has still in him. The way he fought back in the 4th set of the match tells a lot about his greatness and also tells why he is the greatest tennis player of all time. I am not a tennis specialist, however, watching Federer play is entertaining, and pleasing to me. Hence, for me, he is the best tennis player of all time.

At Lord’s, I saw [on recording later], the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar in his vintage form. After he took retirement from the game, I lost total interest in cricket. It was nice to again watch him in action. He was in vintage form. His cover drives, his punches, his straight drives were all right out of textbook of cricket shots.

The football matches were not as high on adrenaline as I had expected them to be, apart from that of Costa Rica and Netherlands face-off. Costa Rica lived up to their reputation in this tournament, and played a superb game against the European strongmen. However, I am glad that Costa Rica lost, and Netherlands won, since I do not think Costa Rica would’ve been any match to Argentina in semi-finals.

Well, I also thought of writing a blog on lines of “State of Union” address of POTUS, which I shall do soon. The week went well, in laughter, in talks, in chatting with friends, in partying and of course, in reading books and spending ample time with myself.

Cheers!

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