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The New Stuff

Fiction or Non Fiction?

Speaking of books or reading, one question that I often get asked is - do you still read fiction? On replying yes, the next question generally would be - how do you find time to read fiction or why do you read fiction? The answer is pretty simple - I read fiction because I like it. I read fiction because there is nothing more enriching than a good story. I read fiction because:
Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures - Ralph Waldo Emerson

But isn't non-fiction a wiser choice? Isn't non-fiction better for knowledge? When we have such limited time available now, shouldn't we give priority to learning? Oh yes absolutely, non fictions are great, I love them too. I generally alternate between reading a fiction and non-fiction book, I totally agree that non-fictions are powerhouses for knowledge but are they better? Are non-fictions the only source of learning? I am not so sure. Seriously, neither the reader-me nor the working-professional-me can decide which one is better? It's like asking whether:

Imagination is better than Knowledge?
Empathy is better than Experience?
Creativity is better than Structure?
Cognition is better than Intelligence?
Storytelling is better than Research?

Can you decide which one is better for you? I definitely can not. Be it empathy or intelligence - at least I need both to survive in my professional as well as personal life.

As per me, all these skills are important, the degree of importance may vary depending upon your profession or your life stage but there is no science or arts that can prove that one genre of book is better than the other for mental growth or which type of book one should prioritize to utilize the reading time more prudently. A good book is a good book, it doesn't matter whether fiction or non-fiction. I have at times learnt a great deal about empathy by being able to relate to a fictional character and at times have been amazed by the insights that I could gain by going through a good biography. So, instead of worrying too much on what kind of books to read, I would say - just read a good, of any genre that you enjoy reading. It's much better than the skimp reading we do on internet mindlessly throughout the day :-). 
Still need some logical proof? Check out this post on how a fiction can improve your brain connectivity or this video on how a good biography can influence your personality.

What did I read recently? Quite many interesting books but the two books from my recent reading list that I liked a lot are:
  • Non-fiction: Start With Why by Simon Sinek. I have been a great fan of Simon Sinek's TED Talks and hence I picked up this book on impulse. I am glad I picked it up. While you may think its a leadership book but it's a great read for almost any professional at any career stage, be it marketing, product, design or business development. It encourages you to put "why" before "how" and "what" - something that many of us lack in our regular approach. If we know the "why", many things start falling in place automatically.
  • Fiction: Rise of Kali by Anand Neelakantan: Very interestingly even this one answers and addresses many "why"s of Mahabharata. This book narrates the story from Duryodhan's point of view and gives you amazing insights on the reasons behind actions of the vanquished. In case you liked Asura by this author, I think you are going to love this one too. Oh by the way, on my last fiction reco for "Remains of the day byKazuo Ishiguro", I was being asked by a friend if he can read it or is too "womanish". Lol, I seriously don't know what would be the parameter to define a too womanish read but Kazuo Ishiguro books are readers' delight, be it a man or a woman reader. If this helps, Rise of Kali is all about Duryodhana's side of story and presents insights like "manipulation" and "influence" in a story format. Hope this helps :-)

These days, I am trying to read on user psychology. So, if you have any great recommendation for me, please drop it in the comment section below.

Bringing old ways of reading back to life

From being a voracious reader to a reading enthusiast - that's how my reading habit got changed when I started working and entered into other phases of personal life. For last two years, despite all my sincere intent to read more, at best I could manage to read only 12-14 books an year. This was lot less than what I used to read earlier. So, when I ended up reading 19 books in last one month, I was quite pleasantly surprised with myself. At least there is something good out of this hospitalization and being-on-bed phase of life, I am getting time to read and paint more. See, I am trying to look at the positive side of any situation :). No, I mean it in all seriousness; first month on bed was too painful with surgery, stitches, fractures and what-nots. To add to that, weird thoughts kept on floating in my mind throughout. So, after few weeks when my hands got freed from stitches, the first thing I did was, picked up a book. One book after another and soon enough I was engrossed in reading like earlier. It only added to the reading charm that not only I was getting to read the books that I wanted to read but I also got some amazing books as gifts from friends.  

But I am all free these days, so what's the big deal about reading 19 or any number of books? Well, it's not the number or the titles of the books but the way I am reading that makes me think more on my current reading habits. You know the kind of reading that we used to do earlier, engrossed in words, lost amidst the pages, the kind of reading that brings you calm and cognitive stimulation, the kind of reading that you do mindfully. My recent readings have been all of that.

So, what did change this time?
  • If I have to say it in one word, it's the internet - I had very limited access to internet most of these days. When I was reading I was ONLY reading.
Few other things that worked for me in bringing back the good old habit of mindful reading were:
  • Reading books only, no other format of reading at all - no ipad, no mobile and no laptop, only physical books and kindle. This works like anything, with no on-screen distractions or notifications that you get on other devices, not only you get to read substantially, your retention power also gets much better. I am not against ebooks or audio books but you know reading a physical book has many virtues of its own - the most important one being attentiveness - a skill that's a rarity in today's age of non-stop distractions.
  • Reading more than one book at a time. I am generally one of those who finish whatever I pick up, even if I hate it and I am also one of those who like to be lost in the world of only one story, one plot at a time. But then in today's world where you have many digital impulses available on your fingertip to distract you the moment you get bored of any book, it makes sense to keep another book handy. I was switching between one fiction and one non-fiction at a time and it worked. I also left 2 books mid way as I thought it was not worth spending time on something that I was not enjoying at all. Also, stacking up some good books to be read next acts as lucrative incentive to finish your current read and be glued on to reading. I for sure had a good stack lined up, thanks to the friends who sent me books to keep me occupied in this bed ridden phase.
  • Cutting down on junk reads: So, whenever people speak of diminishing reading habits, I actually wonder if we are really reading less these days. On the contrary, with 24x7 connectivity, I think most of us are reading a lot more now, consuming anything and everything that flashes on our screen - from tweets to blogs to news in shorts, there is just excess of content available to us all the time. You open Facebook and you realize your 20 mins are gone watching those DIY videos or reading others' posts. With time, I have become cognitive of my online reading behavior and it has helped me quite a lot in cutting down junk content consumption.
  • Dedicated reading time. What I have lot more right now is time but what I mean here is "dedicated reading time" - the time that I use for reading only. This I used to practice earlier too, in between work and child I used to find it very difficult to find uninterrupted reading time in my day to day life. As a habit I used to get up half an hour earlier than my family and spend that time reading in total peace. Currently I have many more such dedicated 30-minute slots with me that I am using for books only. I am aware that I will not have this much time after few months, but even if I can increase my dedicated slot to twice a day instead of once a day, or maybe for 60 mins instead of 30 mins on weekends, I will be happy that I got to form a habit that will be bringing me closer to books. Do think about your dedicated reading slot - the time that you choose to give priority to books over that office email or that whatsapp notification, both in most of the cases can actually wait for 30 minutes.
  • And last one, reading all the time - on bed, in hospital, while waiting for doctors, I carried books everywhere. But I used to carry books earlier too? Well, then I used to carry mobile too :). Currently with my mouth all wired up due to maxillofacial fractures, I could hardly talk and my mobile phone was mostly not with me. So even when there is 10 minutes of waiting time, the default behavior is to browse the book and not the mobile :). Will it work during my regular life too? No idea, but I am surely going to give it a try - to swap the impulse of hitting the home screen with flipping a book page as and when possible.
Books and mindful reading have many benefits and I am sure I don't need to tell you any of that. It's surely worth a try to bring back the old ways of reading in our lives. It's good for our overall wellbeing - emotional as well as intellectual.

In case you would like to watch some interesting talks on reading, do check out this TED talk by Lisa Bu.

Wondering what to read next? Well, there are many recommendations and curated lists available online. Pick one as per your taste and preferences. Currently I am eyeing this 2017 Summer Reading list from GatesNotes. I read 3 from his last year list and loved them.

What did I read in last 1 month? Fiction, Non-Fiction and Biographies and if I have to name 2 of my favorites out of the recent 19 reads, it will be these two -
  • Non-Fiction: Hooked by Nir Eyal
  • Fiction: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

What are the things that help you to read more? Would love to hear it from you. And in case you have a must-read recommendation for me, do drop it in the comment section below. 

Raising little readers

Raising Little Readers
You love books, you have books all over your house, you always wanted your little one to be fond of books, you have ensured to buy sufficient books for her, you have even taken up a library membership as well as the monthly book box subscription for him but still your little one is not as passionate for reading as you would want him to be? You have to remind her to read and it doesn't come naturally to her. He was actually very fond of books when younger but as he grew up, he lost interest in books?

In this gadget filled world where your little one has option to hop from one screen to another throughout the day, it's difficult to keep their interest alive in printed books. As against earlier, they have multiple options now to entertain themselves and unless reading as a habit has been inculcated in them since very early years, it might get challenging with time to keep their reading interest intact.

Mine is just 5 as of now and even though I have been reading to him since very early days, I can tell you with my practical experience that it's not easy to keep up with this habit always. He loves books but of course there are days when he will insist to watch videos during bedtime as against story books and you have to keep telling him no or make the story time so interesting that he forgets the videos. Like many aspects of parenting, patience and persistence works when it comes to raising little readers too. Sharing few tips here that has worked for me so far as far as junior's reading interest is concerned, not sure if these will continue to work when he grows up, but the mommy-me sincerely hopes that this habit becomes a life long habit for him.
  • Start Early: I mean really early. There is no lower age limit as to when a child can get acquainted with books. You know we all give in to the temptation of showing the child videos on mobile or tab while feeding. Instead try colorful board books, give it to the child to play and see. Starting early works, for sure!
  • Read Aloud: Grab their attention, help them with their language skills, make them a good listener - reading aloud has many benefits to kids but one of the biggest benefits as per me is it helps them concentrate and focus, skills that are rarity in this screen dominated age.  
  • Make It Fun: Get into the character, add a bit of drama, enact the story (come on, we all moms and dads have an actor hidden inside us :)) or plan some fun activities around the books that you are reading. The more fun you will make your reading sessions, the more engaged the child will be.
  • Read It Together: Cuddle & snuggle and bond over books. This I tell to many who assume that buying good books will naturally lead to interest generation for reading in their kids. Definitely not possible in today's time when kids have so many other multimedia richer choices available at a click. Make it a habit to read it together and you never know what beautiful reading memories you will be creating for your child.
  • Read regularly: Even if it's just for 20 minutes but read daily. Set aside a time for reading to your kids, it could be evening or bedtime but do ensure to follow this regularly. Once you will be regular, you will yourself observe that with time your little one will pick it up as a habit too. Remember, reading is not just a weekend or holiday activity.
  • Don't bribe: If you will offer bribes like pizza-if-you-finish-that-book, reading will always end up to be an activity done only for rewards. We all end up doing it for some or other activities (in my case, it's his eating where I had done this mistake of rewarding), just refrain it for reading in case you want it to be a life long habit. Instead try to make it fun and yes, patience pays. Keep at it.
  • Read what he /she loves: I know we all avid reader moms & dads have some choices of their own, the books that we think will be good for our kids. But let's not force our choices on them as times have changed and so have preferences of our kids. For almost a month, my son insisted me to read him "Wolverine Vs Sabretooth" story book during bedtime daily. I mean daily! The mommy in me used to wonder why such action packed story at bedtime. But then that's the only book my son was very fond of at that particular time. I gave in to his choices and kept reading him whatever he wanted. Thanks to Wolverine and Avengers, I must say that reading got established as a bedtime ritual on its own quite easily. Do I remember reading anything like Wolverine while I was growing up? Of course nah :D

Hope these suggestions work for you. In case you have any other interesting tip, do drop it in the comment section below.

If you liked this post from a book-loving mommy, feel free to share it and for more succh posts follow my children books page @undertheguavatree

- The Mommy who got all her reading skills by spending her childhood under a guava tree with books :)

Bawra Mann

Bawra Mann Dekhne Chala Ek Sapna
Bawre Se Mann Ke Dekho Bawri Hai Baatein

I can listen to this song in loop forever and still not get bored of it. I am so much in love with it. Beautiful words sung so beautifully by Swanand Kirkire and something that I totally relate to.

The current phase of my life is...ummm let's just simply say - confusing. I don't know of anything that lies ahead. Planning anyways has never worked for me, but this phase is uncertain beyond comprehension.

I try to seek answers or tame my wandering mind but all in vain. After multiple such trials, I have decided to give up and let the mind wander wherever it wants. After all human minds are supposed to be wanderers, dreamers, crazy and bawra :).

Where is my mind wandering right now? I don't know :)

What does my wandering mind want to do? I don't know :)

Can I express the random musings of my wandering mind in words? I don't know :)

For now, I only know that it's in a restless state, trying to seek answers and figuring out what next.

For now, I only know that it has random musings and abstract expressions.

Shall I try to give some shape to those expressions? I don't know :)

When it comes to expressing, ever since my childhood, I have found a notebook-pen or canvas-brush to be an easier tool of expression than anything else.

Considering the same, "Bawra Mann" is just another random beginning to capture the randomness of a wandering mind either textually or visually.

But it's been 15+ years that I have been blogging, then why a facebook page now? I don't know :)

How long will I continue it? I don't know :)

For now, all I know is - Bawra Mann Dekhne Chala Ek Sapna :)

To be updated on Baawri Baatein of a Bawra Mann, please like my facebook page here.

Speaking of my fascination for visuals and my current state of life where I am all vella lying on bed for months now (why? read it here), I am quite liking instagram and pinterest. I have been using both these apps for long now but its only recently that I have become actively engaged at both these places. In case anything beautiful attracts your eyes too, connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest @kanupriyasindhu

New Year Reflections

End of previous year & beginning of a new year... this joy & celebration & enthusiasm to welcome the year. While I join the celebration and enjoy the fun, I also end up wondering why? Why this zeal to welcome a new date? Why this eagerness to greet this day? After all, isn't it just another calendar date? Why to make new resolutions only on first of January? Would it make any difference if new resolutions were to be made on first of March? Why this keenness to start things today and not on any other day of the year? Is a calendar date really that important to start something afresh? A beginning can be anytime, anyday, any moment, why this strong urge for the beginning today?

While I sit back and reflect, I realize once again that it's not the rational or logic that can give answers to every why of ours. Perhaps for certain things, it's just good to rely on our belief and have that faith - faith on new beginnings, faith on magic of those beginnings. Somehow the magic of beginnings always remind me of these beautiful lines by Meister Eckhart:

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust in the magic of beginnings.”

So, cheers to yet another beautiful beginning, yet another new year and let's hope this new year proves to be as magical for all of us as we are hoping it to be today.

Happy New Year to You & Yours from Me & Mine :)

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