Some bookishness

Today’s post is very very close to my heart. I had thought of writing this yesterday and posting on the occasion of the International Book Day, but it didn’t happen. It was Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu holy day and a national holiday here. With a hovering preschooler and equally hovering (and towering in his calls for attention to x-y-z things that I supposedly neglect) husband, who could find a few minutes to write? Not I!

Actually, its more than a few minutes because I cannot let go of the topic at hand without doing some research here. Also, I got to know that there are 2 different dates when the international book day is celebrated which took away the thunder of yesterday anyway 😉

The topic at hand is exploring the possible reasons why books are so expensive in Indonesia. Some examples in this regard-

  1. I remember very well, the YA novel ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ became popular in Indonesia around the release of its movie somewhere in mid-2014. The popular book-stores Gramedia and Periplus were displaying its copies everywhere. I haven’t read the novel but I used to follow John and Hank Green, aka the vlog brothers on YouTube back then so I was aware how popular this book was. To say I was shocked to know the price is an understatement. I am sure, the price back then was upwards of IDR 300,000, which is INR 1500. About US$ 21. I came to India for a vacation in May 2015 and noticed the same novel everywhere in similar displays at Crossword and other book shops in India. The price – INR 300, which is IDR 60,000 approximately and US$ 4.29! This kind of 5x price difference was astounding!

  2. Cut to today, when I have to purchase books, I tend to compare and for the price difference. Just today, I compared ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ again. The paperback is priced on at INR 193, which is close to IDR 40,000. That’s US$2.75. On book depository, it’s selling for a discount of 40% (!!) for IDR 152,000. That’s INR 744. Meaning US$10.6. This amount is at least acceptable. Interestingly, on itself, the paperback is retailing at US$7.59. This means its cheaper to buy this book in India than in the country where it was written! More on this later.

  3. I compared one more book – ‘The paper dolls’ by Julia Donaldson today. The price on (since it is originally a UK book) is GBP 3.99-i.e INR 365.6 and IDR 74,800. This is selling on for INR 280 (GBP 3 and IDR 57,260). On the book depository, it is selling at a discount of 26% (!) for IDR 134,000 (INR 655 and GBP 7), again making an extremely compelling case for purchase in India.

Not that I was expecting ‘at par’ pricing! Definitely, there will be differences. The most important reason being the existence of the ‘South Asian Edition’:

SA editions are the absolutely legal versions of the original work published in local printing presses in India, under copyright and licensing from the foreign publishers. Cheap local labor means cheaper paper and overall inputs. Also, this paper is of a lower quality since its not export grade. This ultimately translates into cheaper books for the readers. I think students are the best beneficiaries of the phenomenon, going by this question on Quora. In India, given the fact that most of the higher education happens in English, the English readership is considerable- definitely when compared to Indonesia. As a result, demand is higher. Also given the extremely price sensitive market and rampant piracy, it is more sensible on the part of a publisher to license out the printing for local edition. These editions are not saleable outside the subcontinent. Though nothing prevents you from buying these when in India and then returning to your university. It is perfectly legal. A standard practice among the Indian students studying abroad I bet!

I am a big fan of the ‘South Asian Editions’ ever since I noticed the price differences for the first time during my MBA days. I remember my ‘S A edition’ of Philip Kotler’s Marketing Management very well, against the one I borrowed from the library. Clearly, there was a difference in the paper quality etc. But the content was the same. It didn’t matter. For sure I didn’t look upon Kotler as a collectible book anyway. I think the first example of the Fault in Our Stars falls in this bracket. Since the publisher Penguin is also a big publisher in India. So is Bloomsbury who printed Harry Potter books. Out of curiosity, I just searched and realized that all of the big six publishers are operational in India. Most of them have India specific websites. They get the books printed locally.

In comparison, a simple google search did not lead to any information on the presence of the big six in Indonesia. Most publications are done by local players and independent publishers. Kompas Gramedia group is the biggest publisher; but since their publication arm is not listed, much of the data is not available on the public domain.

Why the foreign publishers are not in the Indonesian market is clear – and a topic for another (even more detailed) post.

Bulk discounts?

This is something I wondered for those books that are definitely not printed in India and still are sold for a cheaper price in India. For example, an Usborne Phonics Reader title ‘Snail Brings the Mail’ costs INR 134 on Amazon India. Same costs GBP 5.18 in the UK and IDR 117000 (at 25% discount ahem …ahem) on Book Depository.  Since we own a copy of this book, we know that the paperback has been printed in China. The high cost in the UK which is the home of Usborne publications – probably implies import duty? However, what is notable is that in Indonesia its cost is still 4x more than in India. Keeping the import duty part aside, sheer numbers with respect to demand for this particular title are likely to be higher in India than the UK or Indonesia. Which might lead to sales discounts.

Duty structure

Finally coming to duty structure. I confirmed that:

  1. Import duty on books is nil in Indonesia. It can attract VAT of 10%. Which means on a book with the CIF value of USD 100, a duty of USD 10 is likely to be imposed presently. As per my information, no other duty should be charged.

  2. As per this form, a book with of CIF value USD 100, will attract a duty of USD 14.86 in India.

This adds rather than solves to the conundrum because higher duty in India does not explain lower costs of books in India as compared to Indonesia, that too, lower by 4-5x. Reasons could be anybody’s guesses:

  1. Low demand for imported English books in Indonesia. Translates into lower price elasticity. Thus its a sellers market and they are trying to milk it.

  2. India is a very price sensitive market. Good demand means economies of scale possible. Bulk discounts possible and it is possible to be profitable despite selling at low prices.

Unfortunately, up to date data is not available on the printing and publication industries in both the countries. It would have been interesting to compare the profitability of these publishers /sellers to know more.

Hopefully, I will stay interested in this topic to update more!


Reviews: Regency Romances I read in 2018

‘Regency romances’ is one of my favorite reading genres and so far mostly the only kind of romance books I enjoy. I am all for light-hearted romance, full of witty banter and longing looks and regency manners. I prefer what is nowadays being called as ‘clean’ romances, without much of sex or sleaze and usually, this implies I am comfortable with classic love stories within which I infinitely prefer regency romances. This year I read four!

The Grand Sophy – Georthe grand sophygette Heyer

This was my first ever Georgette Heyer book after having heard of her for too long. Her writing apparently was inspired initially by Jane Austen, the diva of Regency Romances. Give me Austen any day for an engaging, yet lighthearted read about the tragedy-less uneventful lives of the upper class British during the Regency era  :-). Anyway, having had great expectations after reading rave reviews for the book and the author, I was as the logic would go, disappointed.  The language is quite ‘Regency’ for sure. My issue was with the characters. Mainly the protagonist Sophy who is funky, spunky and independent, doesn’t seem to be a Regency character considering the era and the life of women during it. She is quite manipulative without remorse. Somehow almost all the major characters seem more frivolous than the Regency characters I am used to. There are modern authors who have nicely replicated Regency era so I know it is achievable. I only thought that Georgette Heyer is overrated if one has to go by only this particular book. I think what the author did was to mix up Mansfield Park with Emma where Sophy was somewhat like Emma only less gentle and the Rivenhalls were less dramatic or tragic than the Bertrams. Also, of course, Both Mansfield Park, as well as Emma, are more serious books.

My rating was 2.5 stars rounded off to 2 on Goodreads. It probably could have been 3 stars if I hadn’t heard a lot about her all these years that had built up sort of an expectation.

After reading The Grand Sophy in fact I considered stopping reading Regency romances altogether because suddenly I couldn’t see the point of it that I had seen all these years. Sophy was the ultimate antidote apparently. Things changed when I got my Kindle later in the year and I discovered the joy of Kindle Unlimited which, discovering my reading history on Goodreads, suggested me some ‘Novel Abc (insert an actual regency era novel) variation’/s – as they are being called now. Back in the day, they used to be called fanfictions. There were and are loads of sites dedicated to the Regency fan fiction and I would check them out time to time. Some of them indeed had quality reading content. So it is some such authors who published their novels, stories and novellas.  I read three last year and all of them were Pride and Prejudice variations. Let’s see how many this year brings.

  1. ‘The Darcys of Derbyshire: A Pride and Prejudice Variation’ by Abigail Reynolds  – I have read her work on fan fiction sites earlier and I think her language fits my expectation of Regency language. Her characters too are consistent with what the original Pride and Prejudice. Her cleverness lies in the fact that she is able to create novel variations within the same plot (P&P) usually while remaining mostly true to the original Regency character. I have enjoyed her work – whatever I of it I have read. Most of it is better than the celebrated Georgette Heyer above going by Grand Sophy. Anyhow this is a novella and has a lucid backstory. It’s a diverting read, good for some absolutely light-hearted romance on the go. Though I found it out of character for such a taciturn and proud man such as Darcy to elaborate a backstory of his parents with such detail including their feelings etc to a woman with who he tried to share his own romantic feelings and was rejected just a few weeks back. I am sure he would eventually as we know the plot  – but not so soon. I also don’t think that a man too concerned about proprieties will not suddenly flout  Overall my 3 stars for the book.
  2. Did Darcy do it: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Sophie Lynbrook – I was intrigued by a P&P whodunnit. Usually, such outlandish ideas have lame endings but going by the rave reviews I felt like going for it since it was available on Kindle Unlimited. I am glad I did it. This author too is very much focused on sounding authentic regency and she has nicely built the intrigue. She has studied the facts about regency courtroom trials, imprisonment etc. Though its a murder mystery, it still is faithful to the basic concept of regency romances whereby there isn’t extreme angst involved, only light. At the same time, she has built up and nicely unraveled the mystery, provided explanations for the twists and involved some of the popular characters in detective work too. Overall I liked this diversion well. Better than the Darcys of Derbyshire, though, the idea in this story was even more outlandish than Darcy sharing a sentimental story with Elizabeth pretty soon after being rejected in the Abigail Reynolds’ work – somehow the fact that Darcy is accused of murder is gradually built up and at a point seems plausible thing to do given the circumstances in the plot. Which is all to the credit of the author. I gave it 4 stars rounded up from 3.5. Because it was an unexpected  & pleasant surprise.
  3. Wild Goose Chase: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Sophie Lynbrook – Happy with the whodunnit, I decided to try one more of her novellas. This is as outlandish as the other where Darcy and Elizabeth chase Lydia and Wickham through Gretna Green and in the process fall in love. However to make this believable, author built a scenario whereby Elizabeth initially leaves with her uncle and aunt and Darcy joins them in the quest. Thus the question of propriety and chaperon etc is solved. I mean the author cleverly digresses from the original plot for short duration still trying to reflect the Regency society and lifestyle. Her style of writing is enjoyable. I personally do not prefer any sex or sleaze in Regency romances because it feels absolutely out of character. I like the author (her 2 works that I have read) for maintaining this, maintaining the language as well as making her digressions from the plot seem palatable and plausible. So again I felt it deserved 3.5 stars rounded off to 4 on Goodreads.

Let’s see what this year brings. I want to read across the genres so maybe not many from Regency romance genre.

My glorious reading journey in 2018 and goals for 2019

Very happy to be able to post this on the very first day of the year, albeit, 7 more minutes to go for the said day to be over… and since my writing style has never been to the point, this might not be actually posted on the first day. Though I am happy indeed. I am writing. As planned. This didn’t happen a lot many times this past year. Therefore as far as I am able to post this without any interruption (such as my son P waking up  – which keeps happening, and one of the reasons I really haven’t been able to update this blog exactly when I wanted to) – so as far as any interruption to this post doesn’t happen, I am happy. It still remains a win-win situation!

I wont be writing reviews in this post. I hope to do a post/s later for that. I just want to declare my success to the world (if at all anyone really reads this blog). I finished… hold your breath….a staggering total of 17 books in 2018. And exceeded my goal of reading a book a month! This wasn’t really easy. I am an avid reader. Rather, I used to be. But after moving to Indonesia – my reading of physical copies of books was next to nil. I couldn’t find affordable sources of English books anywhere. I suppose these books are expensive here because a majority of them are imported. Whereas in India, same books would cost much lower – because of localised printing because of the fact that English is the choice of majority when it comes to reading. Also due to limited baggage allowance, I have never carried back more than a couple of books during my India trips. As a result, overall my reading has been abysmal. I read a lot of short stories and online works during ensuing years, but my habit of reading regularly went for a toss. Locally as far as I am aware, there’s just one English newspaper that is easily available and that is Jakarta Post. It never had thought provoking articles and interesting Sunday supplements that I used to enjoy back home. I’d say probably because it took me some time to assimilate the local way of living. Also possibly because the day to day English as used in India could be different in ways that only my subconscious might have understood ( I haven’t). The point is, my reading had come to a standstill. It also didn’t help that I refused to buy kindle thinking that the experience would never compare with the joy of reading physical copies of the books… the touch , the smell of paper, smell of print, the bookmarks and so on… I was not exactly right.

I wouldn’t say I was totally wrong. Yes, in fact Kindle experience is not at all close to that of holding the real book. But it is absolutely the more practical choice for any person in my situation – someone who wants to read English books,  wants to be able to afford them (without resorting to piracy) and someone who couldn’t bring more books from India. I failed to see this all these years. I was also totally involved in being a new mom (not that I stopped reading – but my reading was mainly parenting sites and parenting facebook groups. In fact it was obsessive. So much that eventually I uninstalled FB app from the phone to limit my frequent surfing – that used to happen while being in a semi passive stage such as feeding times during the infant stage or insomnia due to difficulty in getting back to sleep after having woken up every time to take care of the baby’s needs)

This year in October, I got Kindle. Till then I had read 5-6 books out of the total 17 I have completed in the year. And that’s exactly why I am happy. This is absolutely promising. If I could finish 10 books in 3 months, I could finish several more in an entire year. So I am grateful beyond measure for the Kindle 🙂 Thank you husband, for such a birthday gift! You kept suggesting over years that it should be bought, but I never paid any heed to you or turned down your offers to buy. I think what prompted you into ruthless action of buying without asking me is the fact that I joined a book club in June and tried to read every month. You saw my life suddenly spring into real life (outside of the preschooler and the kitchen) and you saw me enjoying it, holding on to it  – like a treasure. Normally you ask me before buying anything for me – you don’t like giving surprises for the possibility of them turning out to be unpleasant 😉 as you have wisely learned over the years 😉 😉 But this, you made an exception – and I am really really thankful for that.

With a Kindle Unlimited subscription, I already have access to a large number of books. Though this excludes majority of well – known books and authors, there ARE some of them very well – known and also in my ‘to be read’ list. And needless to say there’s a vast ocean of undiscovered books and authors – which I have begun and am really happy to discover…

I read (not in the order of reading):

  1. One life to ride – Ajit Harisinghani
  2. Wild goose chase – Sophie Lynbrook
  3. Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  4. Montessori at home guide – Rachel Peachy
  5. Midnights with the Mystic – Cheryl Simone and Sadhguru
  6. Did Darcy do it – Sophy Lynbrook
  7. Prachin Bharatiya Shastradnya ani Sanshodhak – Bhalba Kelkar
  8. An Unquiet Mind – Kay Redfield Jamieson
  9. How to take decisions – Devdutt Pattanaik
  10. Laws of the spirit world – Khorshed Bhavanagari
  11. Ready, Study Go – Khurshed Batliwala and Dinesh Ghodke
  12. Chai, Chai – Biswajeet Ghosh
  13. Many Lives, Many Masters – Brian Weiss
  14. Gathoda – P. L Deshpande
  15. My Favourite Nature Stories – Ruskin Bond
  16. Montessori at Home Guide: A short Introduction to Maria Montessori – A. M Sterling
  17. Darcys of Derbyshire – Abigail Reynolds

I aim to post reviews of some of these books that I haven’t already posted.

So what next? The Goodreads app already asked me what my reading challenge for the year is. Instead of putting in a number I’d have liked to make qualitative goals. But Goodreads doesn’t yet let set such kind of goals. Thus I thought of blogging them here:

  1. Equal number of Kindle and Paperbacks – to catch up with some paperbacks that haven’t been read from my earlier collections.
  2. A balance between Indian and foreign authors – to make sure I read even Indian authors – whom I have been mostly avoiding.
  3. A balance between English and Marathi books – to make sure I read enough Marathi. I love reading even Marathi books which were so far inaccessible being abroad and Kindle has made them accessible.
  4. Versatility in reading – Try to get out of my comfort zone and read across genre.
  5. Read some George Eliot because it’s her 200th birth year
  6. Try to finish some books from my ‘Currently reading’ list in Goodreads. The number is 32. Yes. Total 32 that I picked up and abandoned after some time. Not all of them are bad. So try to sort of salvage my list.
  7. Since Goodreads asked for a number I have put 30 books for the coming year, but we are flexible about that in reality – as far as the 5 goals above are met.

All in all, it feels awesome to jot down these goals somewhere. I think these are much in detail as compared to the last year’s a book a month. So a lot of improvement over the last year!

Its 12.40. So we are already on the second day of the year. Like I said, its still a huge improvement over all years. I think since inception. Signing off. Happy New Year 2019!

Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The first time I heard about this book must have been atleast 10 years ago. Ever since I have been hearing about this book every now and then. For last many years mainly non – fiction has interested me so I suppose this had remained in my ‘to be read’ for a long time. Thanks to the book club that I am a members of, that I finally read it this month.

Synopsis – The Kite Runner is a book about almost coming of age (literally and figuratively) of the protagonist through one incident in his life which tests him and how he redeems himself later . Its also a story about two friends , a story about a father and son from son’s viewpoint, all of this, against the socio-econo-political backdrop of Afghanistan. All the other circumstances move around the 3 central characters. Amir, the protagonist, Hassan, his close friend and servant and Amir’s father. Amir, who looses his mother at birth, craves for the attention and approval from his father who is the absolute ideal in his eyes and who in turn seems distant towards himself (Amir). His only confidant is Hassan, who braves it up for Amir many a times through thick and thin with loyalty that is fierce as well as servile, that is as innocent as it is absolute, that only children can offer. But Amir fails his friendship for a choice he makes for personal gratification and that choice haunts him for the rest of his life. It strains his ties with the others, including his father. While Amir goes through mental turmoil, Afghanistan goes through political coup that changes the socio – economical landscape of the country forever and forces Amir to leave the country and leave his past behind. Years later Amir is forced to revisit his past and gets an opportunity to redeem himself.

Paras below contain spoilers.

Like many peals of the onion, this book is about several things. It narrates the realities of Afghanistan before and after Taliban came in force, the social hierarchy and discrimination based on it – economic and religious. The book depicts vividly, plight of the servile classes as well as those belonging to a marginalized religion, the status of women in Afghan society, situation due to cold war, the Russian interference, post Taliban takeover, exploitation of masses and even the question of faith etc. It paints a picture of Afghanistan that was much more liberal in the past.

The book describes nature, places and landscapes quite vividly . Author’s style of writing is very lucid. I enjoyed reading this book. It is fast paced and doesn’t have many dull moments. Some scenes, dialogues stood out to me forcefully. Like the one where Amir discusses concept of sin with his father, description of Hassan’s expressions while being oppressed by Asef, where Amir throws a pomegranate on Hassan’s chest and asks him to retaliate, description of travelling in a heavy transport vehicle to cross the Afghan border and so on. However, it read to me almost like a screenplay and I felt it was written with an eventual movie in mind. Some incidents were too ‘filmy’ (a term we use to denote semblance with Bollywood movies) – such as Amir being hurt on his lip and being reminded him of Hassan’s cleft lip, that Amir was childless – it almost was clear even while Sohrab wasn’t introduced that Amir is going to adopt or grow close to or see his own child in Hassan’s child. , later Soharb too working for Asef by coincidence is a ‘filmy’ coincidence. That he has to go through agony similar to his father, that he saves Amir from Asef in similar manner as Hassan once did etc. Also the book is all praise about US and negative about Russia’s role in the Afghan situation. While Russia’s role has been manifold, US hasn’t been entirely blameless as per the popular media that I was exposed to as a reader of international news. As a result I felt this book was not honest on that account. That it was written keeping the US audience in mind. All in all, not a great book to get a lowdown on what exactly is the political situation in Afghanistan etc. but as a fiction with certain realistic elements, it is a lucid read. Sort of populist -pulp fiction version of the Afghan conflict in the middle of a personal story.

Overall rating – 3.5/5

Book Review: Chai Chai by Bishwanath Ghosh

Book’s Name: Chai, Chai: Travels in places where you stop but never get off By Bishwanath Ghosh

Section from the description on the back of the book cover –
Chai, Chai: Travels in Places Where You Stop But Never Get Off allows the reader to join the author-narrator while he experiences new places and faces. The beautiful sun, the rich cultural history and the people are all rendered with humor and love. One can almost feel the narrator going through the little lanes in Kanpur and then end up in Madras. Whether one is drinking tea at a local café or sitting with numerous people in a local train, Ghosh breathes life into every moment. While speculating on life’s little moments, the author also realizes the amount of hours spent in waiting at railway junctions. The destinations are not just stations and stops for trains to drop commuters off. They represent a different life and a new adventure everyday.

It was this description that enticed me into reading the book .Long distance train journeys were ubiquitous for those of us who grew up in India in the 80s and 90s and I have fond memories of traveling with extended family, friends etc on these journeys. Moving across compartments, jolly conversations with these co-travelers with who you would share your meals, stories and jokes like you would with a close friend, street food bought at each such major railway ‘junction’ and so on – where you stopped but never walked out of the station premises. Having had my fair share of long distance railway travels I was curious how these nondescript ‘junctions’ were outside of railway premises .

Therefore, I can now say that the book while a travelogue, is not what I had expected. Author visits Mughalsarai, Jhansi, Itarsi, Shoranpur, Arakkonam, Jolarpetai, Guntakal etc.These places while don’t cover the extensive geography of India, are important connecting points on the railway line, that join the four corners of the country. While I particularly felt Western, Eastern part of country were not really covered, this seemed to be author’s personal journey – the junctions that have been important to him over his lifetime .

His modus operandi was to travel to each of these places, stay for a couple of days, attempt to know the history and collect the stories within such period. His account is in first person, reads like a travel diary really. His go to strategy seems to be finding the nearest popular bar and chatting up with patrons over a drink or two. This seems to have worked for the author because after losening over a drink or two, some strangers have regaled him with very interesting stories. I’ll say that the book in this case should have been called ‘Bar – Bar’ because the author hardly drinks Chai throughout the book, mostly bar hops and has also written from time to time about his cravings for a drink or two and how he met them. In fact Chai might have one passing reference that I already seem to have forgotten. He definitely has been able to capture small town charm / quaint lifestyle, more successfully in the middle chapters where he probably found his groove. I especially enjoyed reading Itarsi, Guntakal and Jolarpet chapters. His descriptions of nature and surroundings especially Jahangir Mahal at Orchha, the Shoranur – Nilambur railway track etc made me google these locations up and look at the images. Towards the end, he seems to have hastily wound up and concluded, either because his modus operandi /Sop got too monotonous or his own interest waned due to language barrier.

Overall, 2-3 days per location are never enough to really understand the culture, history and the roots of the place, the lifestyle of a town. Author seems to have done no homework before landing at the specific town and hence spends most of his 2-3 day stay looking for and describing accommodation, the food he got to eat or trying to reach right persons who could provide him more of historical perspective. Wherever he fails to meet anyone right, he just gives up and moves on to a different location. Also due to lack of homework his go to strategy seems to be wheedling out stories from fellow bar patrons over few pegs of whiskey which as a source of legit information seems dubious to me.

Still, for the off beat topic, and lucid writing in parts, it seems to be somewhat of an entertaining read. However is a one time read because there is nothing profound, no thought provoking observations and despite having finished it just a handful days back, I dont seem to recall most of the anecdotes mentioned therein. 🙂

Overall Rating: – 3/5

Some book reviews

  • Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby  (Vanshvel)-  By Dr Malati Karwarkar
Excellent guide on nutrition. I read Marathi version Vanshvel and I know that this will be my go-to book , my bible on nutrition for the rest of my life.
Late Dr. Karwarkar would have been of my late grandmother’s age. Yet her ideas were quite ahead of her times, are even now to an extent ahead of the time, in the area of nutrition. Indians, while rightfully proud of their food and traditions associated with it, choose to selectively ignore vices of various methods of cooking, preparation, combining of food components, all the while saying that modern ideas are nowhere as effective as traditional wisdom. Dr Karwarkar explains how our food culture needs to be modified to suit the changed lifestyles and quite logically. Her language sounded very contemporary to me and very practical and the hacks and tricks /tips that she has shared are very much suited to Indian dietary style. She predominantly discussed Maharashtrian cuisine, at least in the Marathi edition that I read, but the principles she discusses could be applied to entire Indian cuisine. It is sad that such books are not popular.They should be made a part of school/college curriculum as food and nutrition is basic need of people belonging to all the professions. Kudos to Dr Karwarkar and I am in her debt forever.
  • Ayurvedic Garbha Sanskar: The Science and Art of Pregnancy – By Dr Balaji Tambe
While in principle, this book promotes the best of ancient Indian traditions, it is very difficult to implement all of these traditions in practical life. Today’s lifestyle, living conditions as well as the medical procedures have changed and unless one has time, resources (lot of money, helping hands, lot of space and so on) and the will to go against modern aspects of life, it will be impossible to follow this book word by word.
For my own pregnancy, I tried whatever was practical (and whatever ayurvedic medicines I could afford to purchase repetitively) and decided to take rest of the advice in this book with a pinch of salt.
What I would have really preferred to read is how to make the most of your pregnancy, given the altered modern lifestyle. A lot of auyrvedic remedies suggested in the book cannot be prepared by end readers of this book at home, but have to be bought from an expert ayurvedacharya or from the author’s own product-line.
I have great respect for Shri Balaji Tambe, and my family members and I are regular viewers of his various TV discourses and programs. This respect led to the purchase of the said book during my pregnancy. Its approach of explaining pregnancy and various aspects with shlokas from various ancient Ayurveda books followed by detailed explanation is interesting. However, it fails to address modern pregnancy related ailments and complications. While it has touched upon some of these complications, there are not enough guidelines on how to handle such a situation. Issues related to modern lifestyle such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, low or over supply of milk etc find passing mention – nothing detailed.
All in all, a book I could have easily passed up.
  • If Truth be Told: A Monk’s Memoir – By Om Swami
A beautiful memoir. Several ideas and concepts resonated with what I have been learning about spirituality growing up. I have been a regular reader of his blog at This is largely a memoir, a story, and not like a spiritual treatise. The style of writing is quite contemporary and flowing. I was engrossed with it from the moment I picked it up. I have finished reading it in less than 4 days.
  • Myth = Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology – By Devdutt Pattanaik
Being a Hindu, I had a background in these concepts. However as years passed by and I grew up, I had relegated these concepts somewhere at the back of mind. The very one that I got introduced to as a child, when I would ask so many questions and was open minded. As time passed, I followed worships and rituals at times very blindly and other times would ignore everything in favour of the concept of abstract spirituality. This book served as a refresher and was an enjoyable read.
  • Mi Pahilele Shankar Maharaj – by Yogi Dnyananathji
I have come across several narratives of Shri Shankar Maharaj that also had his philosophical teachings explained in simple language. This small book is mainly a narrative of events that author witnessed while in company of Shri Shankar Maharaj. As a collection of stories it is a good read.