Monday, December 19, 2016

The Mountain Shadow: the second Shantaram book

Shantaram is the first book written by Gregory David Roberts.

He ran away from a prison in Australia to end up at Mumbai. He then lived in a slum in Mumbai, created and ran a free-of-cost health clinic, and then joined the mafia, otherwise called the underworld.

It must be mentioned here that other than the fact that Mr. Roberts came to Mumbai, most of the book and its characters are fictional. Nonetheless, it makes for great reading.

I read the first book in December 2007 - January 2008, and was surprised to hear about the second one. Before I post my favorite quotes from the second book, I must mention that
1. The first book was way, way better; and,
2. Even if one ignores the first book, the second one is boring.

Going to Sri Lanka in the future was a big thing in the first book. But it looks like Shantaram went there only to keep the promise made in the first book. Not the promise to Khaderbhai, but to the readers that going to Sri Lanka would be like going to Afghanistan in the first book.

There were a few smaller things. Small and irritating but too little to be mentioned. But when the author himself says it is fictional, I feel the criticism should be held back. And moreover, how many books have I written?

Now getting to the book's contents itself.


"An amateur is anyone who hasn't learned how not to do it"
".. Writers never really die, until people stop quoting them."

A sadists' sadist

A case for bargaining, and a case for not bargaining.

Corruption as a tax.

I think in the first book Karla said Khaderbhai took her to Ajanta or Ellora caves. Now she talks of Kanheri caves.
Difference between war and peace. Seems a bit confusing though.

Justifying a life of crime. Or sugarcoating. Or just inventing excuses. Who knows?

Gotta love Didier talking about himself in third person.

A very logical yet simple case against suicide.
Though I do not understand these discussions completely, or even in parts for that matter, reading these makes me feel like an intellectual for a while :-)

Difference between good and bad pride.

Didier at his best!

Had Tolstoy not written Anna Karienna, literature and science would be lacking a lot today.

Because we can!

Religion in its most basic parts.

Not today. Not any more.

Experience speaks.

Someday, poor Indians will rise. Atleast I hope so.

Clients in the fake passport business.

If you are thinking of reading the Mountain Shadow, please don't. Read Shantaram first and then go through the Mountain Shadow. Reading it directly will most likely kill your mood for the first book as well.

I must say that I was introduced to Shantaram by many friends: Vidhu Shekhar, Salil Kaul, Sharad Saxena and Diwakar Chauhan. There is also a certain Navdeep Toor, who since 2008 is saying he will read Shantaram, but now I do not have any more hopes of that happening.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

I am reading random books at the moment. This one is the autobiography of Andre Agassi, an American tennis player.

Though every man is the hero of his story, I love the frankness and honesty that he brings.

Instead of writing down quotes, I have clicked pictures of a few pages and am putting them here.

Can't really summarise this. Some things can only be felt.

This is something I can relate to.

It is better to be judged than to be ignored. But nobody thinks it at that time.

No arguing this, Agassi had an asshole father. The man made his son play for his own selfishness. And then wanted his son to quit for the same.

This is the most motivating thing I have read in 2016!

Aaaand, the most badass thing of 2016.

 What is an autobiography or biography you would recommend?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The copyrights of many books expire every year. Project Gutenberg is an initiative and website that offers such books for reading or downloading. I was lucky to come across it in college but was stupid enough to not read stuff from it for a long time. I only wish it had some works in Hindi, Punjabi and other Indian languages.

Recently, I went through the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The guy was a writer, scientist, businessman, politician, diplomat and who knows what rolled into one. Like all of us, he too might have had a bad quality or three, but I think it is best to focus on the good.

I loved how the guy kept on working hard. Unlike most of us 'modern' work drones, he still had his entertainment: reading, writing and discussing stuff. He was also a keen learner and seemed to be to be interested in everything. I must mention here that I first read about him in a book called 'Mastery' by Robert Greene.

Here are a few quotes from the book.


Promises in this world and beyond
[Charles] Osborne went to the West Indies, where he became an eminent lawyer and made money, but died young. He and I had made a serious agreement, that the one who happen'd first to die should, if possible, make a friendly visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things in that separate state. But he never fulfill'd his promise.

Finding that we are 'reasonable' creatures.

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from Boston, being becalm'd off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I consider'd, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc'd some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, "If you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you." So I din'd upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.

Arranged marriages were a norm in that time and place, with dowry and all. This means that there is some scope for both arranged marriages and dowry to cease in India.

Mrs. Godfrey projected a match for me with a relation's daughter, took opportunities of bringing us often together, till a serious courtship on my part ensu'd, the girl being in herself very deserving. The old folks encourag'd me by continual invitations to supper, and by leaving us together, till at length it was time to explain. Mrs. Godfrey manag'd our little treaty. I let her know that I expected as much money with their daughter as would pay off my remaining debt for the printing-house, which I believe was not then above a hundred pounds. She brought me word they had no such sum to spare; I said they might mortgage their house in the loan-office. The answer to this, after some days, was, that they did not approve the match; that, on inquiry of Bradford, they had been informed the printing business was not a profitable one; the types would soon be worn out, and more wanted; that S. Keimer and D. Harry had failed one after the other, and I should probably soon follow them; and, therefore, I was forbidden the house, and the daughter shut up.
Lessons from running a library

The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one's self as the proposer of any useful project, that might be suppos'd to raise one's reputation in the smallest degree above that of one's neighbours, when one has need of their assistance to accomplish that project. I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a number of friends, who had requested me to go about and propose it to such as they thought lovers of reading. In this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after practis'd it on such occasions; and, from my frequent successes, can heartily recommend it. The present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid. If it remains a while uncertain to whom the merit belongs, someone more vain than yourself will be encouraged to claim it, and then even envy will be disposed to do you justice by plucking those assumed feathers, and restoring them to their right owner.

This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study, for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and thus repair'd in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. Reading was the only amusement I allow'd myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolicks of any kind; and my industry in my business continu'd as indefatigable as it was necessary. I was indebted for my printing-house; I had a young family coming on to be educated, and I had to contend with for business two printers, who were established in the place before me. My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My original habits of frugality continuing, and my father having, among his instructions to me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon, "Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men," I from thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encourag'd me, tho' I did not think that I should ever literally stand before kings, which, however, has since happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.

A new way to learn languages

I had begun in 1733 to study languages; I soon made myself so much a master of the French as to be able to read the books with ease. I then undertook the Italian. An acquaintance, who was also learning it, us'd often to tempt me to play chess with him. Finding this took up too much of the time I had to spare for study, I at length refus'd to play any more, unless on this condition, that the victor in every game should have a right to impose a task, either in parts of the grammar to be got by heart, or in translations, etc., which tasks the vanquish'd was to perform upon honour, before our next meeting. As we play'd pretty equally, we thus beat one another into that language. I afterwards with a little painstaking, acquir'd as much of the Spanish as to read their books also.

Learning to be humble

I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it. I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fix'd opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I deny'd myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear'd or seem'd to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engag'd in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos'd my opinions procur'd them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail'd with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.


Having the right priorities,and the right amount of wit as well :-)

Upon one of his arrivals from England at Boston, he wrote to me that he should come soon to Philadelphia, but knew not where he could lodge when there, as he understood his old friend and host, Mr. Benezet was removed to Germantown. My answer was, "You know my house; if you can make shift with its scanty accommodations, you will be most heartily welcome." He reply'd, that if I made that kind offer for Christ's sake, I should not miss of a reward. And I returned, "Don't let me be mistaken; it was not for Christ's sake, but for your sake." 


पैसा पैसे को खींचता है।  In other words, money begets money. Most things from that time seem true today.

My business was now continually augmenting, and my circumstances growing daily easier, my newspaper having become very profitable, as being for a time almost the only one in this and the neighbouring provinces. I experienced, too, the truth of the observation, "that after getting the first hundred pound, it is more easy to get the second," money itself being of a prolific nature.
After this, Franklin moved into more political and administrative stuff. This is when I decided to get off the book. Mostly because I personally am in the personal growth phase of my life rather than political or other-such-things stage. Hopefully someday I will get back to it.

I hope you liked it. If you wish to read something on Project Gutenberg and are not sure what, the Top 100 is a good place to start.

Any and all books of any kind that you would like to recommend are welcome!