Author: Amit Gawande

Reader. Writer. Coder. Code for living. Live for reading & writing.

Getting Back to Reading More Books

If there’s one positive change that the lockdown has brought into my routine, it would be that I am reading a lot more, both online essays & books. My Goodreads currently reading list is full of some wonderful books. It is a result of some intentional changes in my habit and the easy availability of a lot of free time.

I am “reading” a lot more books in their audio forms. The Audible subscription has been one of the best investments. I enjoy listening to books as I am doing other tasks. Be it the regular household choir or exercising. So if I am thoroughly involved in a book, it clearly shows in my walk/run times. I would go on long walks just to “read” more.

Additionally, I have since long stopped carrying my mobile phone with me – rather I keep my Kindle around. I always take it along as I move through my routine. This is my observation when I had first started following this habit a while back.

I take my kindle, walk to my balcony or to my terrace or to the garden and settle there. Without my phone. Or my iPad. Anyone needs my attention, they have to come and fetch me. And I realised I was back to being more earnest while reading.

This holds even today. So whenever my mind reaches out for some getaway, it’s the list of books that is accessible. Not some social media feed. Or emails. No risk of doom-scrolling.

I have also realized that I can’t read only one book at a time. What I want to read depends on a lot many external factors. My mood, the weather, what and who am surrounded by, the thoughts my mind is full of. So I have a list of 10 books that I am reading at any given time based on these factors. And I don’t hold myself to add another to the list if none of these excites me some time.

Being a completionist has been a habit that I was proud of one time; that’s not the case any more. If a book is unable to hold my attention, I will stop reading it. I will skip chapters if it is non-fiction to see if there’s any other chapter that interests me. There are more pages that we can eagerly turn than there are minutes that we can breathe. Don’t touch a book that doesn’t keep you excited to turn to the next page.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Hunter S. Thompson

I asked Alexa to set a reminder for 10 PM. She did, however for the next day. Then I asked Siri to do the same. She said there’s no app that can do that. Well, Reminders app was offloaded. Because, storage. Then I asked Google. It did what I wanted.

Book Review – Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

Through some wonderful recommendations from folks I have learnt to trust now, I came across this brilliant mystery series featuring one of the most likeable characters I have read, Rabbi Small. I enjoy reading mystery as a genre the most – in that whodunit has a special place in my mind. It is the most difficult genre to write effectively.

This short read falls in the category that Agatha Christie had mastered — the story unravels itself for both the reader and the central characters together. Everything is laid out in front of the reader with nothing being held back by the “intelligent” detective. I hate the I-knew-it-all-along sort of twists. The mysteries that don’t employ such ploys can leave you with satisfaction that is of the highest order.

It is not the underlying mystery that charmed me though. It is the sincere presentation of Jewish culture in a small-town community of Barnard’s Crossing, notwithstanding the humorous undertone that author Harry Kemelman maintains throughout. I loved the setting of the lovable town and the characters big and small – I connected with each one of them. I enjoyed the discussions that David Small gets into every now and then, for that matter right from the get-go when he untangles the middling mystery of a broken vehicle with his simple, basic yet effective method of listening. I knew right away that I was in for an enjoyable ride.

This is an intelligent book with a common, sincere central character. He is not the only intelligent being around – each supporting character is important and equally worthy. I loved Rabbi Small’s bantering with Chief Lanigan on topics both related and unrelated to the mystery. The later, equally smart, is not there just to hear the detective unravel the mystery towards the end. He is involved too. In that manner, this book is special.

I haven’t been this engaged while reading a book, or to find what happens next since a long time now. And I don’t remember the last time when I rushed to pick the second book in the series this soon. I think it was when I read Christie for the first time.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in a light, cosy mystery and is ok to not be held up in the cleverness of the plot or presentation. The simplicity, then, will win you over.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As I read this post that I wrote exactly 12 years back, I wish I could be more like that guy. He didn’t care about how random the thought was. He was fearless. He may not make sense always, but he never let that hold him back. He didn’t worry about what the reader might think about him. The thoughts and the writing sounds so immature, but am sure today I can write about the same idea a lot more cleanly. But then why don’t I word such thoughts?

Well, I am no longer him. I wish I could be. I guess growing up has made me rigid and a lot more fearful.

The online Apple Store is finally launching in India in a week. I need to be fast and block all my credit cards. I have heard many stories of how Apple makes the buying experience so simple that most buys are instinctive. And with current times of lockdown, my mind is full of abrupt instincts.

On a serious note, am really looking forward to the availability of trade-in, AppleCare+ and Apple support. Of course, I am sure the cost won’t be too low for any of that. A cursory look at the available payment options makes you realize that Apple is finally taking the Indian market seriously. I wish that Apple rolls out Apple Pay that’s customized for India soon.

One of my senior colleagues delivered a timely reminder of one truth — we don’t take any good or bad decision. Because no decision is good or bad until we get to the result that decision leads to. And given the fact that no one sensible can predict the future, you can only judge a decision in retrospect. So don’t get paralyzed. Just take the decision.

Small Town Diaries – Waltz of the Rain

I felt very close to the rain today. I don’t like to get drenched in a downpour. Or to get damp in a drizzle. As a child, I used to sit at the edge of the veranda and watch the rain play its games. I did that again today after a long, long time.

The clouds gave way to a slight drizzle and eventually burst into an angry downpour. I slumped into the swing chair in the veranda and grinned as the wind lead the stream of raindrops as part of their lovely waltz. I instinctively stretched out my leg to the rain in the hope that nature’s playfulness on show rubbed onto me.

It did; I felt calm, devoid of the stress that I had become so habitual to recently. I experienced a general sense of clarity within, but I wasn’t thinking about anything specific. A numbness of mind that moves you meaningfully? I wish I could better word this paradox.

My recent lifestyle of the bustling metropolis has made me ignorant. When it rained, I hid behind glass with the raindrops furiously colliding against it. But then they dejectedly glided down. Not today. I let them touch me, heal me today.

When I began the little side project about ten weeks back, I hadn’t set any specific expectations from it. Or from myself. I had an itch, an idea for sharing my interest in everything about writing with other folks who share my passion. I wanted to explore the newsletter as a medium to reach out to other people. It was only natural to bring them together.

I had no idea at that time that more than 2 months down, I would still be pumped to word each issue with care every week.

At the risk of getting cheesy about a random number, the 10th issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter needed a special mention. I paused before publishing the issue in haste in the last week. I hadn’t got enough time to work on it. I wasn’t happy with what I reviewed as I about to schedule it. So I skipped sharing any issue in the last week. I took the time again and reworded the whole issue. And it is out today.

It features some insightful essays that attempt to decipher and explain the past, present and the future of the complex obscurity that is language. I enjoyed reading each one of them; they made me appreciate the intricacies of human communication. It made me wonder that maybe the languages evolved because we human beings are an intelligent species. However, possibly we evolved into an intelligent species because we had the backing of complex languages. Maybe both.

Anyway, do give it a read online; this one is a special one for me. If what you read interests you, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, I will appreciate if you forward them to your friends. And any which way, I would love to hear from you.

I am planning to rework the structure of the newsletter a bit without losing on the core idea. I will share more details as they crystallize in my mind. If you think any aspect is just not working, do let me know. It would help me make some easy decisions.

Small Town Diaries – Shopping

I went casual shopping today. I didn’t dress up as I would normally do whenever I go out in my hometown. How I look as I go outside does not matter to me much these days. Anyway, all I had to shop for was some groceries and a few ointments.

The way I looked today was fine for the larger town I have settled in. Rather the shabbier I dress up, greater the respect I gain from a store owner. Or so I believe. This theory fails royally in my comparatively smaller hometown.

As expected, I was consciously ignored by the store owners and the attendants. I, then, asked for a specific item, a Himalaya – a well-known Indian brand – face cream. I returned the Himalaya face gel asking for the cream variant. And it is then that they called me “sir”. 

This incident repeated itself at another store. My shabby attire made everyone attending in the store to ignore me. I then asked for a lip balm of from Nivea. I returned the strawberry flavoured one he hesitantly handed me and asked for a variant that’s especially for men. It is then that they called me “sir”.

I have realized over the years (and from the sheer amount of effort my dad puts in dressing up just to go out of the main door) that it matters here how you present yourself outside – especially in shops as a customer. However, if a shabby looking attire makes the store owners and attendants ignore you, the specificity of your wants makes you special.