Asian Writers

June is dedicated to authors with ASIAN ORIGIN....review of books in this category will be posted all month....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tuesdays With Morrie & Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

Rating - * *

I decided to review both books together, primarily because ( no particular order)

• the underlying theme is more or less same
• they are both by the same author
• and because I read both of them within ten days of each other

It’s not that I hadn’t heard about the books till a month ago, I had. And many times I had picked it up from the shelf in a bookstore only to replace it with a catchier, relevant and less preachy book. Probably I was not in the frame of mind to learn about humanity, morality and the other –tys- that are out there in the world.

The premise of the book Tuesdays with Morrie, is about a dying old teacher and his student and the exchange that follows between them during the last few months. It’s not a bad book, but it’s not great either. The lessons, the good values, family, love et al -I have heard it before - in school, our parents and even my boss! So there's nothing new in the book for me. Neither is the story. I am guessing all dying people grow wisdom tooth and then take it upon themselves to dispense this new found wisdom and love to people around them or rather whoever is willing to listen. What strikes me as strange is that, Morrie had a full life, and a life in which he had in general been a good person and a teacher. So what was different about the last few months? Probably the only difference was that the student, i.e. the author Mitch, viewed it from a different perspective after having gone through the metamorphosis of a student to a working adult. Yes, I have to concede that Morris's illness was not pretty, and that requires courage.
I had seen the movie some six years ago, and I still remember that it had made an impact on me that time (although the impact didn’t last long). But the book failed miserably in this respect. It’s one of the rare examples of a movie being better than the book. Watch the movie, skip the book.


Five people you meet in heaven is better than TWM. There’s a story and there is the karma factor. What you do has wider implications and our actions affect more people than we think it does. I agree to this thought and it is well corroborated by the people whom Eddie meets in heaven. The people whom he meets are those with whom he had close bonds to those whom he had never interacted directly, yet each of these lives intertwined and touched and transformed each other. The writing is simple, its not as preachy as TWM and that’s why it is a better and quick read. There are some touching moments, but they are fleeting, at times the stories get stretched out (the one with his wife, surprisingly enough. Also it didn’t really have any message that I could decipher) and at times they are real short (the blue man). When you finish the book it will leave you with questions - about fate, about people, about life, about work and about yourself. Try to find answers, maybe then you won’t be as confused as Eddie about life's purpose.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

Rating - * * *

This book is all about fullfilling your dreams. I wont restrict it to merely childhood dreams, but just about any dreams that we dreamt, either as a child, a teen or an adult. In a simple style, Randy Pausch talks about how he achieved his. The book is filled with anecdotes, some funny, some enlightening and some touching moments.
Randy Pausch is not someone who belongs to the league of the likes of Bill Gates. Yes, he is brilliant than the average people and has the charisma that’s difficult to find, yet he does not preach. In fact he stays away from this line. He talks about his negative traits - his cockiness, his arrogance, things which he still working calling himself a "recovering jerk". He does dispense advice, in a matter-of-fact way...but he has the interest of his students in his heart. It’s not like the things he has written about - hard work, humility, earnestness, being what we are - is not something that we didn’t hear before, we did, and we all reacted to it in the predicted way - rolling the eyes. In his non-coercive way he made me identify with him, the things that he did as a kid and making me want to have an attitude like him for the life that we are blessed with it. He didn’t have a great childhood in terms of being lavished with whatever he wanted. He grew up with restrictions but still saw the bright side.

When I think back, I find it hard to recall when it was last that I wrote a hand written letter, a card or a note. Yet I always look for the yellow sticky-note in any documents that I receive from my father. It’s the small remind-me note that he uses which has just two line - but handwritten, signed with a "take care, Papa" or something similar. A simple note but something that I cherish. That’s why when Randy Pausch emphasized in his lecture, the importance of a handwritten note, I knew what he meant. In today's world, a handwritten thank you note is priceless - simply because not many people thank each other these days and the number of people who actually take the pain to write it is even less, assuring us that the feeling is genuine.

Growing up, when I saw my other friends having more relaxed rules, I used to feel jealous and used to grumble. But in this grumbling I perhaps missed out the subtle changes that these so called rules brought within me and helped shape up some of the good traits (whatever little) that I have... None of us are born with an ideal life - a happy childhood, a successful career, a happy married life and so on - we have to work hard in each of these phases and make the best of what we get. Life is too short to sit around and whining about it.

One day we may wake up to realize that we have just 3 months to live and if that be the case can our last lecture be equally satisfactory?. We can, if we decide too, for in Randy Pausch's world it is never too late. Perhaps we can’t change the cards we are dealt, but we can change the way we play the hand....