Author Archives: Shivani Ahuja

About Shivani Ahuja

I am an Editorial and Marketing manager with an e-publishing house. I also write book reviews and preschool animation scripts. Poetry and travelogues published on ashivani.wordpress.com are expressions of my daily emotions, thoughts and experiences.

Shivani Ahuja

June 8, 2017

The Book of Buddha_Book Review

Author : Arundhathi Subramaniam

Publisher : Penguin India

Published in : 2005

The Book of Buddha is an account of the journey of Gautam Buddha and his teachings over the past 2500 years, from being a seeker, to gaining enlightenment under a peepul tree in Bodhgaya, to having 300 million people across the world considering themselves beneficiaries of his insights. But it is no cliched account. It highlights the teachings of Buddha in a very impactful manner that will often have you stop and ponder.

This book gives a lucid portrait of Buddha as a sage with an ‘air of untroubled interiority’, who neither patronises nor needs weak-kneed veneration. He even offers unsettling home truths, and ‘articulated the human predicament with…lucidity, psychological acuity and unsentimental precision.’ He says that life is dukkha, suffering, but at the same time he gives a solution, and charts an exit path from dukkha, a way to find the truth, that is available to all who care to reach for it.

The books takes us through various life stages of Siddhartha, who from a seeker becomes Shakyamuni the Sage upon arriving at the realisation that ‘suffering alone exists, but one who suffer; the deed there is, but no doer thereof; Nirvana there is, but no one seeking it; the Path there is, but none who travels it’ The book goes on to trace his journey when he attained supremacy as Tathagata the Master, and finally went from death to immortality as Jina the Victor, the Buddha.

Arundhathi Subramaniam, while writing this book, took a leaf from Buddhas’s book, and gave a clear portrait of him and his role in offering searing insight and astringent clarity about the human life. She very rightly states that we are attracted to him and his teachings because Buddha lives through all of us, as he seems to ask the same questions that we ask—about the human suffering and impermanence of life—and he, from his own wisdom, tells us that there is a way for transferring adversity into freedom, brokenness into wholeness, the chaos of our mind into flawless peace.

She explores the transcendence of his teaching, and affirms that Buddhism constantly inspires all that are ready to learn to be free from suffering. Before this book, I read about Buddhism through Harman Hesse, but Arundhathi’s is a book that spoke of Buddhism in a language that I understood, a language clear and bold, which is what makes her writing so impactful. Her seventeen-year self thought that she could be friends with Buddha, and with that confident  tone of familiarity of a friend, she goes on to describing his quest to enlightenment and beyond.

Like Arundhathi, I turn to Buddha time and again and look for answers to life-related questions, and this book, a carrier of the words of the enlightened one, brought me solace, and reminded me, too, like the writer, of his generous invitation to all humanity: ’Look within you, you are the Buddha.’

A must read for people who’d like to read about the philosophy of Buddhism, and get answers to many of their existential questions, and be inspired to be ‘light onto themselves’.

Happy reading!

Shivani

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The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – Book Review

The Alchemist - Book Review

Publisher: HarperOne

Published in 1993

The Alchemist is a story about a boy named Santiago who goes out on a quest to find a treasure that keeps calling to him in his dreams, a boy to whom ‘knowing the world was more important than knowing God’, so he gives up being a priest, as his parents desired, and becomes a shepherd who travels the world. He lets his dreams, which speak the language of his soul, guide him on his journey from his home in Spain to many mystical experiences in far away lands.

He meets mysterious people who guide him on the way, like a Gypsie in Tarifa, who interprets his dream, and a mysterious old king in a North African market who tells him that ‘the soul of the universe is nourished by people’s happiness…And when you want something, the whole of the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ Ultimately in the deserts of Egypt he meets an Alchemist who helps him find spiritual enlightenment, and shows him that his soul and that of the world is the same, and when one follows one’s heart with persistence and without being distracted by the comforts of the world or fears of the mind, is when one finds his destiny, his treasure.

Paulo Coelho, in a very mystical way, talks about the common thread of energy running through various beings and things, like the surreal connection between Santiago and his sheep. Paulo often uses simple metaphors to describe complex human conditions and struggles, and with the same simplicity of his writing, he moves on to tell tales of how the universe gives everyone signs and omens, and how paying the The Language of the World its due heed makes all the difference in how well you know yourself and the universe, which in turn decides how happy you are. Such writing makes one stop and ponder about the reality of one’s life.

To me this book is a source of inspiration to rise beyond accustomed grounds, and follow my heart’s desire. It tells that even though our attachments tug at our heart to ‘make us forget the joys of carefree wandering’, we ought to wander and follow our heart and our dreams. For it’s the possibility of a dream coming true that makes life interesting.’

A lovely read to be inspired, or to get familiar with the mystical concept of how every element of the universe is connected, and hence every sign in the universe is decipherable if one has the clarity and belief. A must read for those who believe in or are intrigued by the driving power of love and the language of the heart.

Happy reading!

Shivani

Psmith in the City, P. G. Wodehouse – Book Review

Psmith City_Wodehouse

Author: P. G. Wodehouse

Cover illustratioin by Ionicus

Publisher: Penguin Books

Published in 1970 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published by A. & C. Black, in 1910)

Psmith in the City is a comedy about P. G. Wodehouse’s beloved character Psmith, a hilarious and witty Etonian with his love for all things debonnaire, and his friend Mike, a cricketer.

Psmith and Mike, two country boys, by the play of Fate, land up in the lumbering relay of work in a bank in the city of London. Mike’s good-intentioned but rash actions and Psmith’s light-hearted schemes jeopardize their carriers and wind them into brawls, uncomfortable social situations and office soups as per Mike or any regular person’s judgment; but Psmith takes it all with a carefree Noblesse-oblige attitude, wishing to make comrades out of them all including their bank’s reluctant manager, until they stop working for the bank. After all, Mike would rather be out playing cricket, and Psmith would rather partake in Les petits plaisirs de la vie.

P.G. Wodehouse with his witty style of writing hits the bull’s eye when it comes to giving words to one’s emotions, but of course he does it with a light-hearted flair. He shows how a be-all, end-all situation has a silver lining easily attained through equanimity and a little sense of humor. Wodehouse’s ludic writing entertains and, in a way, opens up a reader’s mind to insincerity of seemingly grave situations, and to living in the present.

To me this book was an absolute entertainment. It is not difficult to fall in love with Wodehouse’s unusual characters, especially Psmith, who through their reasons and actions reflect how life is nothing but a game of words and wits.

A must read for people looking for an amusing read.  Though the writer himself says that his style of writing novels is ‘making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether,’ but I, on the contrary, think that Wodehouse not only does not ignore real life, but shows it in a different light, surpassing the gravity of trivial things, floating high to get a bigger picture.

Happy Reading!

Shivani Ahuja

The Outsider (The Stranger), Albert Camus – Book Review

The Outsider - Albert Camus and Sandra Smith (Translator)

Author: Albert Camus

Translated by Sandra Smith

Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics

Published in 2013 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published in 1942)

The Outsider is as straightforward as it could get. It is the story of a man named Muersault, whose will to act is as simple as being guided by one’s first instinct, however departed it may be from the conventions, and of which he willfully takes the responsibility in all its bareness. He does not cry or act sullen at his mother’s funeral, he allows himself to happily start dating a girl a day after the funeral, he befriends a hooligan, he kills a man upon being agitated by the heat and glare of the sun, all because he doesn’t find a reason not to do so, all because that is what he feels like doing then from the objectivity of his mind, and all along, he does not justify himself. His not-so-normal ways and reasons, not in-line with conventions, meet a gloomy fate at the hand of judgmental men of the world, who, rightly so, do not look beyond the conspicuous facts or reasons that his actions announce.

Albert Camus, has aptly personified the philosophy of existentialism in the bareness of the inner instincts that the protagonist identifies with, acts upon and takes responsibility of, though it is incomprehensible and reproachful to many people living with their tender indifferences, which, ironically, the protagonist, in his objectivity, wistfully opens up to or becomes compassionate with. Camus’ candid writing leaves a great impact; the complete clarity-of-thought of his characters prods the readers into deep musing and also, at best, introspection.

To me this books was a revelation to a school of thought that is not just pure and objective, but encompasses a deep understanding that every man is completely responsible (of entire mankind) for their decisions, their will—unveiled, unjustified, unapologetic—purely manifested through their actions; that, action does speak louder, and only we make what we are.

A must read for people looking for a good piece of literature—well-written and deeply conceived. If one is new to the theory of existentialism, then, this might be as revolting, thought-provoking and revolutionary, all at the same time, for you as it was for me.

Happy Reading!

Shivani Ahuja

I Shall Wait No More

I sit and pray

for dawn

of inspiration,

cajole it

to come along

on my journey of action—

it doesn’t,

shows reluctant

to surpass the blocks

the barricades

in my mind

I shall be more conscious

of their

stealthy invasions,

in future,

But for now,

I must move on

without delay—

act,

inspiration

will just have to

find its way

to follow.

~ Shivani Ahuja