Author: farooq Page 3 of 45

Book Review: The Namesake

The Namesake.

How much impact does our name have on our lives?

My name ends up being my ‘last name’ to those unfamiliar with how Muslim names work in a lot of occasions. Not only that, the varied pronounciations and phonetically ‘right’ way of saying it, does make names sound different than it actually is. Not such a big problem for many who, like me, like their name.

Now, imagine someone hating their name!! Holding a grudge against their parents for doing that to them and especially when that someone is a first-generation American. That’s the central theme of this Pulitzar-prize winning book by Jhumpa Lahiri.

The one thing which I hated about the book was the Cover! Any book which has the cover of its film adaptation is something I hate. It deprives you of forming characters in your own head.

Other than that, the book is a breeze to read. Jumpha Lahiri is a good story-teller and she captures the life and times of the Indian diaspora, struggles of first-generation Indians and their immigrant parents, how they perceive India during their once-a-year India, but more importantly how the name which our protagonist has: Gogol, affects his outlook. There’s a back-story as to why Gogol was named Gogol which he does not know of, and is adamant of shedding off his Bengali origins (unlike his parents) and being an American only. The problems of this cultural identity occupies a major portion of this book by displaying the shift of Gogol’s parents: Ashoke and Ashima, from Calcutta to Cambridge.

Apart from this backdrop of culture, the book focusses on the Dynamics of family, relationships and issues where cultural identities play a pivotal role.

I loved reading the book, the introduction to a mixed cultural landscape and intrinsic struggles of families to remain together. And now, I look forward to watching the film as well.

Book Review: Godan


This happens to be the first Hindi Novel (of such length) that I’ve read. I’ve read a few excerpts before and even watched the on-film version of this long back, but reading this book has been an experience that I’m glad to have done.

Premchand is a genius. Probably, as everyone already says, the greatest Hindi novelist. This definitely piques my interest in reading more of Hindi literature.

Godan, or more phonetically ‘Gau-Daan’ or ‘The gift of the cow’ as the translated version is referred as, is ideally on how a poor farmer’s innate desire to own a cow, so that when he dies, can be given away to a Brahmin as is customary. Of course, the death acts as a metaphor for the countless deaths that the farmer (and his family) go through.

The book largely paints the terrible state of farmers in the pre-independence era, the zamindari system, caste system, society’s treatment of the poor and low-caste, the lifestyle of the rich and their own problems and how all of this constantly crosses each other’s path.

The language in the book floats from the hindi-urdu to hindi, and is reminiscing of the way it’s spoken in the Oudh region (around Lucknow) and helps in the transition of the stories along with the characters’ laments.

Even though the book is set in the pre-independence era, it doesn’t meddles too much into the freedom struggle. In a way, this symbolises how cut-off the villagers were or how engrossed they were in their own problems.

I’m still amazed at the numerous stories stitched together to portray the life and times of that time. Godan has been a wonderful read and not only because it was in Hindi, which is another reason to love it, anyway.

There’s a translated version of Godan available and if you cannot read Hindi, you should give that a try.

I loved it. Hope you’ll love it as well.

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

If I’d known that all of Murakami’s work are translated versions, I probably would’ve shied away from reading one. I’m glad I didn’t.

This book has been a revelation! I’ve been blown away by the unique storytelling that Murakami has essayed through Kafka on the Shore. I’ve become such a fan, already.

Kafka on the shore captures the life of ‘Kafka’ who runs away from home at the age of 15 and ends up near the shore and a parallel story of an old Nakata who can talk to Cats. How are these two stories related and how the two protagonists cross path towards meeting each other, along with paranormal activities, UFOs, mystics and shady characters in their journey is what the book is about. There’s so much to this book that I cannot put it down without it being too lengthy of a review to read.

What I loved about ‘Kafka on the Shore’ is the increase in curiosity level as you progress in your reading. The book ends with loose ended answers and yet you feel like capturing the essence of the world which Murakami wanted to portray. I’ve never been intrigued by Japanese culture before, but reading this I feel like spending time in the library like Kafka to get all I can.

This is one of those books, which goes into my re-read list. Loved it. Look forward to more of Murakami!

Working Hours

There’s a lot of talk in workplaces and even outside, on working hours. What’s the ideal number an employee should be spending in the vicinity of their office.

We’ve definitely moved beyond the 9-5 routine. When was the last time you entered your office and left when the clock ticked a time, and you’re like, ‘Time’s up!’ ?

Not saying that people don’t do this, but I’m getting to hear less of this now a days. At least in the circles I move in.

There are people who do come to office early and there are many (like me) who take their own sweet time to swipe in. The philosophy that I intend to follow is to stay in office as long as you feel like working, swipe out when you don’t. Hours added to your time-in-office for the sake of it are nothing but a waste of your own productivity and strain your non-work life.

Agreed, unavoidable meetings and deadlines don’t always agree with ‘Oh! I don’t feel like working today’ but if you always get this feeling then there are bigger questions to ask. For instance, do you even like doing what you’re doing?

The general perception that offices have created is working late means working more. It’s evident in everyone who candidly remarks, ‘Areyyy! You’re leaving early?’. Your work output should be the only metric defining you at any workplace.

I tried sticking to this system in my previous organization and it did turn out well-Work till you feel like working, leave when you don’t. I’ll strive to maintain the same with the new one as well.

In an age when opening work even when I’m home, or commuting or out on a vacation, is such a regular thing, sticking to prescribed work timings sounds like living in the an olden era.

There’s of course, no hard-and-fast rule to it. Maybe even I’ll break this sometime. But having a philosophy to remind you, time and again, helps draw a baseline.

What’s your take on working hours, anyway?

Difficulty of Writing in front of others

Writing in seclusion is what I always prefer. Zoning out, and penning down my thoughts. Not caring about the world in motion.

What I don’t quite like is people starting on my screen when I’m trying to write. As of the words won’t just come out on their own. Self-consciousness-bs aside, the mind just goes blank. Even with the knowledge that nobody can actually read the small font sized letters that the screen is adjusted to, it just gets so difficult to write!

I tried writing on the bus, on my way to work, but the dude next to me preferred the WP-editor on my phone than the scenery of traffic out of that window. Then once in office, ended up responding to emails and then my desk got shifted and there-my resolve to write first thing in the morning went for a toss. It’s like getting out on a duck after promising to score a ton. Well..

But, why it is so difficult to write when people are watching?

I definitely don’t mind people reading once I’ve finished. It’s definitely not the fear of being judged. I threw that away long back. I mean, I don’t even do a proofread of my blog before I hit publish. Just like this one. Unless, someone points it out. Or months later when I re-read this (which rarely happens), and go like, why is there a typo?! And how come no one noticed this?

So.. while I try to figure out the reason. Please don’t go ask someone, when they’re writing, ‘What you writing?’. There are so many other ways to make small talk.


Also, let me know what do you think is the reason.

Writing First Thing In The Morning

The primary aim of my life has always been to be organized. A failed exercise about which I’ve talked endlessly. Not that you’ll remember. I mean, who remembers the rant of a blogger.

Last year, I tried to write a post every day. A Hashtag Day 1-n series that lasted more than 100 days. Kudos, right? I felt the same. Pushing yourself into a routine of belting out words every day. Those were the days. Remember?

And like every other good thing, it ended. Lived to be remembered as a hero and didn’t lasted long enough to be termed into a villain. Hashtag Dark knight reference.

And I’ve always felt like doing a 2.0 of the same. The Dark Knight Rises?

Okay, Okay! I’ll give the references a break.

But I’m very skeptic of the same, now. Sequels rarely succeed.

However, considering my work here in the new office is yet to give me a glimpse of a hectic Agency Life, I’ve got a plan. A plan to Write at the start of every day. And without the 1-n day series in place. Because, it’s okay to skip a few days when I’m not in the mood or when work catches up. Or worse, Meetings!

So, what do you think? I’ll probably need a few ‘Hey, that sounds good’ to sneak through my ears if I’m going to do this.

I know, I know! A lot of you don’t give a damn. And there’s nothing wrong in that. But some of you do, and your feedback would keep this exercise going.

So, yeah! A short post to kick-start another series of posts.

Catch 22 Book Review: Clever, Humourous and worth a read!


This is one of the most clever books I’ve had a chance to read. We’re so used to using the paradoxical idiom of a Catch-22 in our real lives. This is THE origin of the terminology. And what an amazing read this has been.

Catch-22 has its origin in the US Air-force rule that doesn’t let the airmen leave the services even when they wanted to, or even when they’ve flown a certain number of missions. The only way to get themselves out is to become crazy and then you’d not be allowed to fly planes. But, (here’s the catch) a crazy person won’t say he’s crazy as well ask to not fly. Hence, anyone saying he’s crazy really isn’t! And that’s Catch-22.

The book revolves around the central character of Yossarian, captain in the US Air force during WW-2( near Italy), for the most part. But usually takes in the POV of the entire characters one-at-a-time to show a continuous event.

The book has a range of interesting characters, each struggling through the war.

It’s Satire and Dark humour, with an exaggerating narrative on how war affects people. It’s a fight between individualism vs the collective good, a social commentary of the business of War, Corporate interests and a whole lot of unresolved human emotions.

It’s fun to read with full of aha! moments when you connect parallel narratives. Worth a read.

Loved Joseph Heller’s writing style. Highly recommend!

Looking back (and forward) on the 4 years of my working life

Starting a new job comes loaded with so much of anxiety flowing throughout the day. The adjustments required to shift to a different gear gets to you in many ways. There’s just not one switch. A series of switches which you keep turning on and off, in anticipation of clicking the right one which fits perfectly for this particular job.

Leave aside anything else that comes with a new job, there’s such an uncertainty shadowing on the brink all the time. The looming questions of what-ifs and what-wills cloud everything you do, the moment you finally enter the new office. The endless comparisons with your previous organizations and the virtual pros-and-cons list you create out of thin air.

It’s exactly 4 years since I started working. 3 different companies and 4 different roles. And in doing so, I’ve been lucky to have been able to align my career goals with my aspirations and areas which pique my interest. Of course, support from all quarters of family, friends and some amazing bunch of bright minds to have worked with, has been a blessing.

But irrespective of it all, I’ve always had a bigger picture in me head and whenever that has felt to be little obscured, I’ve tried changing it. Only to find some more of it albeit initially. There’s been a clearing ahead and the sun does shine after a while, as long as the focus remained on learning something new. Fortunately, Digital Marketing has no dearth of ‘something new’ if you’re looking to find it.

But you need look for it. Because even in this growing field of Digital Marketing, the comfort of sticking to what you’re good at, following established practices as the holy grail and being jargon-ready at the drop of a hat has started becoming the norm. Trying something new even when the competition hasn’t tried it out yet, becomes a ‘risk’ for even the startup junta. Sad, but it’s catching up to align ourselves in the traditional aspects of marketing.

When I started working, I had the concept of a t-Marketer out on my desk. I’m still not through the entire T (yet). But apart from venturing onto Paid or learning PHP, I done it all. Not claiming to be an expert in all of them, but I do consider myself good in a few of them.

So, what’s next?

Well, the journey has just started. There’s a lot of alignment which still needs to happen. There’s a small side-project which I’ve started, a very minuscule one at that, about which I’ll update once things are concrete.

I’m a strong proponent of things falling into place and I definitely see them falling right where I intend to. Little apprehensive, of course. But, I guess, that’s part of the package.

This year is going to be exciting. Here’s to another Fresh Start.

Vagaries of life’s plan

The vagaries of our lives are like the waves. We wish that they discuss (among themselves) and come to us with a synchronized display. Entertain us. And warn us when they don’t intent to. Wishful thinking.

God! We’re fools.

The spectrum of our expectations: Downright pessimism to Pseudo Optimism. The happy notes don’t make us sing in joy while the gloomy disaster doesn’t throw us off. The balanced status quo travels through the spectrum with its own confusion. This or That.

Perceived changes for good doesn’t bring in the joy. It just lasts for that instant. Gratified? Done. Gone. There’s no after taste.

‘Now, What’s next?’ echoes habitually.

There’s a foot outta door before putting one inside. The long-term plan, which’ll be followed by another one of the same league.

Sometimes you start admiring the unsynchronized beauty of the waves. There’s no plan there. They just tower over you and then fall flat. Only to return. They seem to like the ritual. We just hate the uniformity until we find a new one to replace it. Changing batteries. Waiting (sometimes) until they run out, or just because we wanted to. Like, why not? Maybe this upgrade will excite us, we think.

The knowledge of mortality is a question mark that looms large and our attempt to squeeze in the experiences is practical. Don’t you feel, not knowing this would have helped us better?

Are we subjecting ourselves to become too aspirational?

An image of achievement guided by our society, fed by our past laurels and aimed at a shifting finish line?

Are we manufacturing our own disappointments ? Do this, do this and do that too. You can’t? That’s a shame!

Not that aspirations are an enemy. Neither is having plans. But perhaps subjecting ourselves to an interrogation of not meeting them is.

Unfiltered Conversations

Conversations with strangers are what give rise to ideas with the absence of a filter. The unfamiliarity bares open your thoughts and even surprises you. It’s not suppression or the inability that plagues your thoughts, or holds them back but perhaps an understanding of the reactions of known vs. unknown surroundings.

Instead of caring for a response, the focus is on the outlet of thoughts and opinions.

While reading a book by Haruki Murakami, I came across a concept which defines subject vs. object. We are always our subjects, and everything else is an object(s) to fulfill our objectives. I know, this literally amounts to the objectification of everything. Even people. But for arguments’ sake, what if this is the key to achieving clarity of goals?

I’m searching what I really want to search and not just what I want. A constant ‘Should I?’ at the end of each of those searches gets added like a takia-kalam. How pathetically critical of me, some would say.

Pivoting back to the conversations with strangers, the moment of ‘you don’t have to look good in any story’ part, there’s so much truth to what flows out. The genuineness of thoughts, ably-helped by what you speak, is an unadulterated symphony which lightens you up.

And when you get that in return, the warmth is comforting and connecting. Ever so slightly, or momentarily you feel elated, of having got through. Or allowing others to get through a passage of opinion visible to you.

Sure, not all filters are bad. Few are critical and necessary for social life to prosper. But it’s always important to bring in conversations with the absence of these in the mix. Intentionally if not seamlessly. The hesitancy to add Question marks at the end of difficult sentences as well as to be able to take similar ones head-on. Not answer which we don’t know, and not ask questions to those who don’t know.

In a life where mortality is a question that looms large, living life should (sometimes) be about finding your path home and not always follow the printed map.

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