Category Archives: Book reviews

What we can learn from Gandhiji’s experiments with truth

Gandhiji was an Indian who had principles. He conducted himself in an inspiring way and influenced masses of Indians through his noble thoughts. His life quest has always been the search for Truth. It’s worth learning about his thoughts and lessons he learnt so we may not repeat the same old mistakes and conduct our lives with attention and care and strive for highest standards of human living. People may like or dislike a person, but a person with moral fiber irrespective of what religion he belongs to, must be appreciated. Gandhiji set an example for several Indians and the world with his moral fiber and his message needs repetition so long as man doesn’t reach his best potential. As a follower of his thoughts, I wish to share some statements I gathered by reading his autobiography with hope that you find some points worthy of implementation in your lives. Some of them need contemplation on our part, so let’s not read them when we are in a hurry.


I never could learn the art of ‘copying’.


I had learnt to carry out the orders of elders, not to scan their actions.


Today, I know that physical training should have as much place in the curriculum as mental training.


I saw that a man of truth must also be a man of care.


I saw that bad handwriting should be regarded as a sign of an imperfect education.


A clean confession, combined with a promise never to commit the sin again, when offered before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type of repentance.


Today Ramanama is an infallible remedy for me.


Today I regard the Ramayana of Tulasidas as the greatest book in all devotional literature.


One thing took deep root in me- the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the substance of all morality. Truth became my sole objective.


‘Return good for evil’ became my guiding principle.


Let every youth take a leaf out of my book and make it a point to account for everything that comes into and goes out of his pocket, and like me he is sure to be a gainer in the end.


My hesitancy in speech, which was once an annoyance, is now a pleasure. Its greatest benefit has been that it has taught me the economy of words.


Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word.


Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else is unreal.


I believe in the Hindu theory of Guru and his importance in spiritual realization.


I think there is a great deal of truth in the doctrine that true knowledge is impossible without a Guru.


I very much liked the company of children, and the habit of joking and playing with them has stayed with me till today.


I have seen by experience that there is much truth in the Indian proverb that as a man eats, so shall he become.


Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation, the door of the deed, whether good or wicked always deserves respect or pity as the case may be.


Ahimsa is the basis of the search for truth. I am realizing every day that the search is vain unless it is founded on ahimsa as the basis.


Nothing once begun should be abandoned unless it is proved to be morally wrong.


I hold that believers who have to see the same God in others that they see in themselves, must be able to live amongst all with sufficient detachment. And the ability to live thus can be cultivated by hailing them in a spirit of service and withal keeping oneself unaffected by them.


I realized that the sole aim of journalism should be service. An uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within.


It is my faith, based on experience, that if one’s heart is pure, calamity brings in its train men and measures to fight it.


Above all, a votary of truth must exercise the greatest caution. To allow a man to believe a thing which one has not fully verified is to compromise truth.


A poet is one who can call forth the good latent in the human breast. Poets do not influence all alike, for everyone is not evolved in a equal measure.


I think it is wrong to expect certainties in this world, whereas all else but God that is Truth is an uncertainty. All that appears and happens about and around us is uncertain transient.


It is my firm conviction that all good action is bound to bear fruit in the end.


To me the Gita became an infallible guide of conduct. It became my dictionary of daily reference. I turned to this dictionary of conduct for a ready solution of all my troubles and trials.


I understood the Gita teaching of non-possession to mean that those who desired salvation should act like the trustee who, though having control over great possessions, regards not an iota of them as his own. It became clear to me as daylight that non-possession and equability presupposed a change of heart, a change of attitude.


To incur debt- a thing I have never done in my life and always abhorred. I realized that even a man’s reforming zeal ought not to make him exceed his limits.


A writer almost always presents one aspect of a case, whereas every case can be seen from no less than seven points of view, all of which are probably correct by themselves, but not correctat the same time and in the same circumstances.


Truth is like a vast tree, which yields more and more fruit, the more you nurture it. The deeper the search in the mine of truth, the richer the discovery of the gems buried there, in the shape of openings for an ever greater variety of service.


The voice of the people is the voice of God.


I am definitely of opinion that a public worker should accept no costly gifts.


Service is no mushroom growth. It presupposes the will first, and then experience.


How heavy is the toll of sins and wrongs that wealth, power and prestige exact from man!


I had cultivated the habit of self-help, I needed very little personal attendance. I had the habit of fending for myself, personal cleanliness, perseverance and regularity.


No matter what amount of work one has, one should always find some time for physical exercise, just as one does for one’s meals. It is my humble opinion that, far from taking away from one’s capacity for work, it adds to it.


To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.


I advised youth that it was far better to remain unlettered and break stones for the sake of liberty than to go in for a literary education in the chains of slaves.


I am convinced that for the proper upbringing of children, the parents ought to have a general knowledge of the care and nursing of babies.


It became my conviction that procreation and the consequent care of children were inconsistent with public service.


I realized that a vow, far from closing the door to real freedom, opened it.


Those who desire to observe brahmacharya with a view to realizing God need not despair, provided their faith in God is equal to their confidence in their own effort.


Human nature shows itself at its best in moments of trial.


Without infinite patience it is impossible to get people to do any work. It is the reformer who is anxious for the reform, and not society, from which he should expect nothing better than opposition, abhorrence and even moral persecution.


I had long learnt the principle of never having more money at one’s disposal than necessary.


Carefully kept accounts are a sine qua non for any organization. Without them, it falls into disrepute. Without proper accounts it is impossible to maintain truth in its pristine purity.


I want to reserve my strength for fighting bigger battles. It was worthy of a better cause.


The very insistence on truth has taught me the beauty of compromise. This spirit has often meant endangering my life and incurring the displeasure of friends. But truth is hard as adamant and tender as a blossom.


The heart’s earnest and pure desire is always fulfilled. In my own experience, I have often seen this rule verified.


It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honored by the humiliation of their fellow beings.


Truth triumphed in the end. Yet, it would not have triumphed if not for unflinching faith, great patience and incessant effort.


If I found myself entirely absorbed in the service of the community, the reason behind it was my desire for self-realization.


Howsoever you man repair it, a rift is a rift.


Like loyalty, an aptitude for nursing was also deep-rooted in my nature. I was fond of nursing people, strangers or friends. My aptitude for nursing gradually developed into a passion.


Service which is rendered without joy neither helps the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.


My experience has shown me that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party.


It is idle to adjudicate upon the right and wrong of incidents that have already happened. It is useful to understand them and, if possible, to learn a lesson from them in the future.


Judging a man from his outward act is no more than a doubtful inference, inasmuch as it is not based on sufficient data.


The education that children naturally imbibe in a well-ordered household in impossible to obtain in hostels.


‘Hate the sin and not the sinner’ is a precept which, though easy to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.


One should eat not in order to please the palate, but just to keep the body going. When each organ of sense subserves the body and through the body the soul, its special relish disappears, and then alone does it begin to function in the way nature intended it to do.


Inhibitions imposed from without rarely succeed, but when they are self-imposed, they have a decidedly salutary effect.


I have always felt that the true text-book for the pupil is his teacher.


Children take in much more and with less labour through their ears than through their eyes.


In the march towards Truth, anger, selfishness, hatred etc. naturally give way, for otherwise Truth would be impossible to attain. A man who is swayed by passions may have good enough intentions, may be truthful in word, but he will never find the Truth. A successful search for Truth means complete deliverance from the dual throng such as of love and hate, happiness and misery.


A votary of ahimsa remains true to his faith if the spring of all his actions is compassion, if he shuns to the best of his ability the destruction of the tiniest creature, tries to save it, and thus incessantly strives to be free from the deadly coil of himsa. He will be constantly growing in self-restraint and compassion, but he can never become entirely free from outward himsa.


A devotee of Truth may not do anything in deference to convention. He must always hold himself open to correction, and whenever he discovers himself to be wrong he must confess it at all costs and atone for it.


One who has faith reds in the trials and disappointments, the merciful providence of God, who thus sweetens sorrow itself.


Humility would cease to be humility the moment it became a matter of vow. The true connotation of humility is self-effacement.


Service without humility is selfishness and egotism.


Disinterested service of the people in any sphere ultimately helps the country politically.


Experience has taught me that civility is the most difficult part of Satyagraha. Civility does not here mean outward gentleness and desire to do the opponent good. These should show themselves in every act of a Satyagrahi.


The salvation of the people depends upon themselves, upon their capacity for suffering and sacrifice.


I have never liked to live for the sake of living. It was such a agony to live on in that helpless state, doing nothing, receiving the service of friends and co-workers, and watching the body slowly wearing away.


The ideal of truth requires that vows taken should be fulfilled in the spirit as well as in the letter.


Doubt is invariably the result of want or weakness of faith. ‘Lord, give me faith’ is, therefore, my prayer day and night.


I have noticed this characteristic difference in the popular attitude- partiality for exciting work, dislike for quiet constructive work.


I have always held that it is only when one sees one’s own mistakes with a convex lens, and does just the reverse in the case of others, that one is able to arrive at a just relative estimate of the two. I further believe that a scrupulous and conscientious observance of this rule is necessary for one who wants to be a good Satyagrahi.


To safeguard democracy, the people must have a keen sense of interdependence, self-respect and their oneness, and should insist upon choosing as their representatives only such persons as are good and true.


My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth.


This much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa.


So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.



The Picture of Dorian Gray

This book is truly representative of dystopia, not just of the protagonist Dorian Gray, a young man from London whose life is marred by his actions- or what art has made him do. His portrait painted by Basil Hallward the painter has caused Gray to be obsessed with self-love and made him a slave of his senses. He tries his best to be good but the novel is written to give no room for virtuous behavior. Lord Henry is my favorite character, especially because of his epigrams. They moved me and made me fall for his tricks. There is verity in some and falsity in some others. I do not completely agree with what Lord Henry proposes every time but I will say this- he is a master schmoozer. He just knows how to captivate his listeners- be it an official event or an informal party. He is the one who considers Dorian’s youth as his greatest asset and thinks that he should always remain as such and never change. The plot of the novel turns out to be morbid in the middle and the actions of Gray haunt him and his picture, even more.

Wilde describes beauty beautifully; he is a master writer and knows just the way to write to keep the pages turning for his readers. I took a long time reading this book than usual because I loved it so much that I wanted to absorb every piece of information in those pages. It was simple something that you don’t read every day- this is a special one so save it for some occasion. The book makes the men and the men make the book; at least this is true for the most part. It seriously makes me think that in the age the book was written, it was a bold attempt by Oscar Wilde to let out such strong feelings between friends who are men.

The description of the painting by Basil Hallward is such a wonder in itself- I read the melody in Wilde’s writing. It makes us miss life in 1890 when the characters lived. It is truly an age you want to be in at least to enjoy the enchanting parties and charming people described by Wilde. The climax of the novel is morbid again but a justification was beautifully provided so there’s no need to worry if you are a stern moralist.  I am surprised that this is the only novel Mr Wilde had authored; I seriously wish he were alive.  I won’t say more about the novel, read it yourself and get carried away to another age.

The Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss” is an interesting work clearly showing the author’s flair for writing. She describes Indian and American stereotypes perfectly and with great detail too. She concerns the characters in her novel with troubling events that take place in the lush green nature-blessed Kalimpong along the Teesta River in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. As the plot progresses, Kalimpong transforms from being a beautiful nature-lover’s haven to a ghost town that is destroyed due to riots instigated by the extremist GNLF fighting for Gorkhaland. She contrasts the life in the Himalayan town of Kalimpong and bustling New York city, which may have had an influence on Desai.

Desai is a good storyteller who mesmerizes the reader with verses that show her clerisy and mastery of English but the plot is not compelling enough to keep the reader turn pages- and I expect this to be a characteristic of the Booker Prize winning works. There are some funny situations and others that are too hard to imagine- Desai turns the plot using its eccentric characters as weapons, into a moody concoction that doesn’t end on a happy note as you may want it to. It nevertheless shows the reality of curfew situations in India and trauma that citizens face due to unpleasant violence.

What’s most funny about the novel is the way in which the characters are stubborn about their feelings despite the level of education that they have been blessed to have at Oxford or Cambridge- this makes me wonder if people become narrow-minded after going to reputed International schools.

Nothing can be called atypical of behavior of people in the country that Desai writes about. Some of the situations that one can connect to are the US visa process, book-loving nature of the characters (which I am sure, Desai also is) and being a gourmet of good food. Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” has a scene in which a character is involved in a communist march. Desai’s novel also has a similar scene with the character Gyan- should we think of this as Roy’s influence on Desai or plagiarism of ideas or that Indian political situations in any state are so banal that authors are forced to think the same way when it comes to politics affecting the general public?

Read the book to learn about the beautiful Himalayan region of Darjeeling, its residents and life of illegal immigrants in New York City.

The God of Small Things- Review

An melancholy  novel that revolves around the lives of a few characters from a family in Kerala, specifically from a town Ayemenem- in the year 1969. Estha and Rahel, dizygotic twins in the novel form its crux and their feelings were significantly portrayed (reminded me of my childhood dreams and feelings). Their disintegrating family and its troubles inform them of impending danger that leave them distraught and shaken. Childhood trauma seems to pass on to what they do with the rest of their lives.

Roy has elaborated the feelings and completed each character’s nature with her skill and choice of words. It was a shock to see no hope and positivity in the book as most of it focussed on lives of Rahel and Estha, who had to cope up with a lot of pressure from their family from the start of the book. The twins learn that “Things Can Change in a Day”.

Set in God’s own country- Kerala, India, the book is definitely not for someone looking for a casual light-hearted reading- it shows the pangs of childhood conscience with deep emotions. On the other hand, if you are looking for some excellent description of nature in Kerala, you will be mesmerized by the picture Roy provides of its beauty and moving emotions attached to it.

Interesting characters: Ammu, Baby Kochamma, Chachko, Comrade C.M.K Pillai and Velutha
Friendly suggestion: Do not read it if you already have family troubles- it may depress you. Recommend it to open-minded, have-a-positive-outlook and serious-fiction-loving audience.