Sunday, November 27, 2011

Children of a Better God

Children of a Better God
By Susmita Bagchi

I read this book several months ago, but am uploading the review today.

What is our first impulsive reaction when you see a child afflicted with cerebral palsy? Unless we are aware, we tend to think that the child would also be having a low IQ and would be unable to learn and find a place in society. Nothing can be farther than the truth. These children are perfectly normal mentally, even as they may be physically disabled.

The author, Susmita Bagchi, penned this book to make us more aware of the issues faced by children afflicted by cerebral palsy. She spent time volunteering at the Spastics Society of Karnataka and was touched by the grit, determination and courage of the students and their caretakers. While the characters and some events in this book have been fictionalized there is nothing fictional about the issues, the struggles, the disappointments and dreams of these children and those who take care of them.

The main character in this book is Anupurba who is forced to return to India from the USA, owing to her husband’s transfer. In the USA, she was an art teacher and is now finding time hanging heavily on her hands.. She runs into a university friend and is introduced to Asha Jyoti, a school for children afflicted with cerebral palsy. Overcoming her initial fears, she volunteers as an art teacher. While she teaches the children to mix paint and obtain various shades in their paintings, it is she who learns a valuable lesson of how never to quit in the face of adversity.

While the language of this book is simple, it packs a powerful punch. Some events even made me cry. However, in addition to dealing with how these children are bravely facing life, the book also covers personal issues which some of the teachers are dealing with. This could have been avoided as it detracts from the main theme.

A big bonus is that it contains photographs of the drawings of the children of the Spastics Society of Karnataka. These drawings are beautiful and detailed; I only wish they were depicted in colour. They radiate joy and happiness; you can see flowers, smiling faces, a man sailing up with a bunch of balloons. Courage, faith and optimism shines through every page of this book.

I would recommend reading this book. It teaches you: Gratitude and how to face life cheerfully, even when there are hurdles in your path.

You can learn more about the Spastics Society of Karnataka by visiting their website

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Z 2 A by Eva Dillner

Z 2 A, by Eva Dillner

It is quite rare to read a book that truly speaks to you. Well, ‘Z 2 A’ penned by Eva Dillner, Swedish- writer, artist, therapist and teacher specializing in helping people during the transformation stage did just that. It spoke to me.

She was one of the fifteen Swedish artists selected for the Tellus Art project in India in 2010 and this book, interposed with photographs of her paintings is a rich spiritual tapestry helping the reader in the entire process of transformation.
Caught up in the corporate rat race, we know how to set goals and achieve them, or rather goals are set for us and if we want to climb up the corporate ladder, the goals have to be achieved. Our life is measured by what we are, rather than who we are.

Yes, the two things are quite different. Recall the last networking dinner you attended. Let us illustrate: You went up to someone and said: I am ABC and I work as a corporate lawyer. You repeated this over and over again. Then, you found a momentary sense of achievement in obtaining the contact number of someone who could be your potential client.

When was the last time you told anyone who you are? That you are a dreamer? Or someone who finds happiness in feeling the sand beneath your toes as the sea breeze ruffles your hair? Or that you find immense joy in helping street dogs find a good home.

Or do you even have time to observe the clouds, or find joy in walking along the beach or feel happy when a dog wags its tail and jumps up to lick you?
We know how to get from A to Z. But what happens, when life as we know ends, or we deliberately break the pattern, before we see a new beginning, there is a creative void where all things are possible. This is what the book teaches us, living from 'Z 2 A'.

We all prepare plans, even if we don’t pen these down on paper or store it on our lap tops or other gizmos, at least we have plans in our mind. Yet, everything does not go as per plan, all the time, right? Eva says: “We live and learn. Might as well roll with the punches. Put another way, you can’t force your will on the universe.”
At this juncture, there is a need to do the ‘RE-words’, which are outlined below.

RE-evaluate: We need to re-evaluate on what has worked and what hasn’t. Yet at the same time, one must remember that life is a constant change. Just because something was the right thing to do last year, doesn’t mean it still fits. The ‘Z 2 A’ period offers the time to reflect, to pause, to let thoughts drift and meander.
RE-member: It is important to get a perspective of what we have done, where we have been. This may offer a glimmer of insight into what we may want to change for the future.
RE-think your options: There are many alternative ways to accomplish the same thing and with this, we move on to the next ‘RE’.
• RE-consider your options
: Look outside the box, look at the alternatives on the opposite side of where you are. For instance, a hard driving executive may wish to explore the softer side.

Sometimes things like an illness, an accident, a retrenchment do happen for a RE-ason. These are personal ‘earthquakes’ and give an opportunity for rebuilding.
As Eva states: “The abrupt or soft demise of what has been is a signal that the Z 2 A period has landed in your life. Take advantage of it. Stop, pause and reflect before charging ahead to rebuild what was. Perhaps, you may want to look at other alternatives for the future”.

What perhaps holds us back is fear. The status quo Is often more comfortable than embarking on a new treasure hunt. LIFE IS A TREASURE HUNT.

Look at all the explorers who went sailing off to find the new world, at a time when consensus had us believe that the earth was flat. They really didn’t know if there was an end of the world, that would have abruptly plunged them into nothingness. They went anyway. They did the ‘experience’ and trusted the universe, perhaps with a bit of prayer to help them along the way.

There is a job for everyone. And by job we mean not your work-job but what you are called upon to do. For some of us, a high flying career is our life purpose. For others, it isn’t so. If we are dragging ourselves to our corporate cubicle, just to stash away money for a nest egg, do we have any idea that there will be a tomorrow to enable us to enjoy this nest egg? Or for that matter, how are we to know that our passion, will not enable us to continue to earn?

Eva outlines another process that can help us in transformation. In the process of RE, the present-future exercise is a good way to help us get in touch with our inner dreams , to get direction and move towards the future that is calling us. Often what our conscious mind says to do is contrary to what our higher self has in mind for us. This exercise puts the higher self back in the driver’s seat. While doing this exercise we should keep three elements in mind, viz: mindfulness; gratitude; compassion especially for ourselves. This exercise may require you to move back and forth, to do a lot of homework, to tie up loose ends. Once the backlog is cleared there is a lot more clarity.

This book, which as the author admits weaves in and out, dealing with different aspects of life. But the last chapter is devoted to letting go and trusting the higher power.

In these days of economic turmoil when many of us are prompted to ask the question, what shall I do with my life, this book will act as a guide. It may or may not resonate with you as much as it did with me, but nonetheless it will offer ever reader some gems to take away.

Find this book on Amazon

The cover of Z2A and
One of the paintings by Eva Dillner signifying -- A Journey into Space we haven't been before

PS: I got this book as a give away on GoodReads and I am so glad that I did.