Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tribute to Teachers

Everyone has a favourite teacher. A teacher who teaches you more than the defined school work. A teacher who believes in you more than you believe yourself. And someone who just makes a better person out of you without you even realising that. And there will be a teacher you will always be grateful about. Everyone will have a different way to express their gratitude. Few show their gratitude by giving presents, few by spending time with the teachers even after passing out of school/college and some, like Mitch, will write a book about their beloved teacher. There are two books about teachers which celebrate them as teachers and their teachings. Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture. There was something so positive and captivating in these books, I wanted to share these books with all of you.

Tuesdays with Morrie

Morrie Schwartz was a much loved teacher by all this students. He was someone who lived each day to the fullest, loved whatever he did and was totally content and happy with his life. Till the day a life threatening disease struck him. He knew his days were numbered and his mobility would be challenged. This wasn’t an easy thing to take for the otherwise active and lively person. When one of his old students came to know of his ill-health, he just thought of giving his favourite teacher a visit. One visit turned into several life changing visits for him. Little did he know that his teacher would be teaching him, will be giving life lessons right up till the moment he breathes his last.

The Last Lecture.

This is about another popular and loved teacher, Randy Pausch, who had a little time in his hands. But he chose to live the last few months living a king sized life rather than wallowing in self-pity. In Carnegie Mellon, where he taught, there was a custom of every retiring teacher to give one last lecture to all his students. What they shared in their last lecture varied from teacher to teacher. Randy gave his last lecture in front of hundreds of students and staff. He chose to speak about his life, from his childhood to that day when he was speaking on the lecture. What he shared is thought provoking, inspiring, and humorous and the experiences as a teacher who was learning something new form his colleagues and students as he was imparting to his them. The examples and experiences shared are heart warming, and for sure there will be something each of us will like to adopt or pass on to others.  

These books are nothing but a collection of moments between a teacher and his student(s). A few might find the books to be preachy with all the life lessons shared but it’s nonetheless a sweet tribute by a student to his teacher (Tuesdays with Morrie) and another being the desire of a  teacher to impart everything to his students in his last moment as an official teacher. I read these books twice. Whenever I had my moments of self-doubts, I read them. It was again like my teachers shouting a few encouraging words and giving a hand to pick me up again, just like my school days. The last lines in both the books gave me goose bumps and I was drawn back to the days I shared with my favourite teacher. Both these awe-inspiring books will do that to you. I’m sure that you will find these books a little comforting whenever you are feeling low, just how a favourite teacher does. Overlook the ‘preachy’ part and you will surely like what you read.

 Reading these will seal the fact that teachers will ALWAYS want to give something to their students, unknowingly too. Guess they are just made that way. All they know is that want teach and they do it till the time they can, being on the job or retired doesn’t matter. Once a teacher, always a teacher.  You will be reminded of your favourite teacher and will definitely think about them and thank them. I’m sure that you will start thinking of the ways to tell him/her a great big Thank You for making a change in your life. It’s never too late to say Thank You to them. Write a book on them or dedicate something to them, it’s your pick. As for me, I dedicate this blogpost to them.

Thank you ma’am. Thank You sir. I’ll always always always be grateful for what you taught me. J

P.S : If you are feeling too lazy to reach these books, watch the video of the The Last Lecture. It’s really worth it. Tuesdays with Morrie also came out as TV series. Do watch and let me know how they are.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Tent, The Bucket and Me -- Emma Kennedy

Family holidays are definitely an occasion everyone looks forward to. That is the time when we get a chance to go to new places with our family and explore new experiences. Those are the times to leave all the worries, stress, hassles and tensions of daily lives and let the hair down and just have fun. But what happens when things go wrong during family vacations? It can have a disastrous outcome for the family but when all such incidents are compiled in the form of memoir, it proves to be nothing short of a hilarious book. Emma’s ‘The Tent, The  Bucket and Me’ is one such fine example. But it was all at the expense of herself and her family. And no reader would complain about that as everyone loves having a laugh or two at someone else’s embarrassing moments.

For the Kennedys, the tent and everything related to camping, held a special place in their hearts. Emma’s life began in a tent. Literally. She was conceived in a tent and the tent experiences were a part of her life till the time she turned into a teenager. If adventure was in the blood of this family, then misfortune was their middle name. The over-adventurous and over-enthusiastic parents were always game for trying out a new ‘adventure’ every year but it was just their luck that everytime they went out camping/ holidaying, the ‘Holiday Gods’ conspired against them to do everything possible to ruin it. Emma, who initially loved the whole concept of camping, slowly started to dread to the very idea of family vacations. The mentioned incidents possibly scarred Emma for life when it came to family vacations. (No exaggeration here.) Who wouldn’t be? After all the ridiculous experiences, which incidentally proved to be the ‘entertaining’ for the readers, anyone would think twice before going for any holiday. Eating ‘exotic’ raw meat which cost them a fortune, falling in the human waste, unwelcoming weather are just a few of the things that this family went through in their decade long disasters in the name of vacations.

This is a good book to tag along with you for your next vacation. This brutally honest memoir by Emma will leave you with a smile. Many of you with camping background might find some situations familiar or atleast you might be able to relate to what they were going through. The next time you go on a vacation, after reading this book, you will for sure think of this family once, wondering if they were there, what disaster would have struck them. If you are not going on a vacation anytime soon, just read this book for the fun of it. It’s a light read and it just might act as a stress-buster after a tiring day. If you are expecting some literary brilliance, you might be disappointed. This is just a collection of memories and not some classic in the making.  It feels like this family is sitting with you and reminiscing about their holidays. But you won’t be disappointed if you are looking for a light, fun read. Who doesn’t love listening to the embarrassing stories of others and have fun at their expense. This is definitely one ‘LOL’ book with collection of the funniest and ‘best embarrassing moments’ of the Kennedy family. Definitely an enjoyable book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pride and Prejudice -- Jane Austen

It is every mother’s dream to see her children married. When her brood consists of daughters, that dream tops the list. Every time someone gets married, the mother wishes it was her daughter’s wedding instead. And just imagine the pride and happiness of the mother when her daughter(s) get married into a well to do, rich and cultured family. Jane explored this issue very subtly and humorously and, I can safely add, accurately, in her book ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Seems that marriage was a hot topic back in the 20s too and mothers then too were obsessed with the big M word.

 A well to do English couple have 5 daughters. The mother is obsessed with only one thing, which is her daughters’ marriage. The father was a little easy on this though, which no doubt irked the mother. When a new neighbour (read: eligible bachelor) moves in, he instantly becomes the talk of the town. Mrs. Bennett tries every possible tactic in the book to make sure that one of her daughters gets married to him. So, did other mothers with young daughters. The story revolves around how the sisters meet their suitors, the problems they face due to their pride and preconceived prejudices and how they eventually get married. Different people in the story get married for different reasons. Some marry for money, some for status, others for lust etc. But the major part of the story revolves around the two elder Bennett sisters. How they look at love, marriage, courtship, relationships with different people involved due to the union and how they marry for the only reason that’s worth marrying for, i.e. love. They face tricky situations, got hurt due to either their own wrong judgement or due to someone’s dirty mind-games, they stumble, and they got up and eventually did the right thing. The kind of marriage each person had due to their choices and reasons, makes it an interesting read.

The story brims with funny situations. To jot down a few, the unsuccessful attempts made by different male characters to impress the ladies was really amusing, the language and  vocabulary used by Jane in these scenes kept me in splits; the way Mrs. Bennett was happy that her young daughter was finally married to someone, irrespective of the fact that the son-in law was almost worthless and that her daughter had actually eloped with him to get married; the eloped daughter shamelessly demanding appreciation for her actions;  the way mothers neurotically discussed marriage and showed off their in-laws  was another amusing part, although that hasn’t changed much till now (I guess).  Sure, a lot has changed since the 20s in terms of technology et al, but when it comes to marriage many similarities can be drawn. I noticed that even way back, men in uniform were admired, adored, drooled upon, sought out after :P , how at a certain age everyone literally obsesses over marriage (mostly mums and all those dreamy girls), how superiority/position/class matters more than anything when it comes to settling marriages.

It’s a book which explores love in a fun and humorous way. It transcends the idea of loving someone who’s like a ‘knight in shining armour’ or ‘a beautiful damsel in distress’. It says that love can be found and can flourish in the most unlikely places. Jane celebrates the idea of love and marriage in the truest manner through the two eldest Bennett sisters.  Jane was one of the first authors in her time who outlined the psyche of the human minds and society with such accuracy. Her satirical rants are something to look out for. It was written almost 2 centuries back and people can still relate to it. That’s the beauty of this classic. It has stood through time and cultures.
I loved how I could actually enjoy a story that revolved around something I dread, Marriage! Throughout  the story I was smiling, laughing and having fun. When I first heard about, as a kid, I assumed I would never be able to enjoy this book. It sounded like heavy stuff to me. How wrong was I. This book is a complete joy-ride. Wish I had picked it up earlier, but as they say, better late than never. And if you haven’t read it till now, you know what to do. And do it ASAP.