Tom Hanks Evokes the Extraordinariness of American Every Days in Uncommon Type

Monday, April 12, 2021

Just when we thought that the all-rounder, Renaissance-types were no longer faddish, Tom Hanks, who hardly needs an introduction as an actor, director and producer, has cranked out an astonishing collection of short stories. And I use “cranked out” because I deliberately want to evoke the clackety-clacks, the whirs and bings of those old-fashioned machines that once used to occupy offices before noiseless computers slid into their place. And this too, is an aspect of Hanks that is little known to the general public: he has a fetish for typewriters.

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Arvind Saraf Leverages a Growth Mindset to Embark on Creative Voyages

Monday, April 5, 2021

Arvind Saraf: Journeys from Surat to IIT, Kanpur

The probability of meeting someone like Arvind Saraf is staggeringly low. To give you an idea of how rarefied such encounters are, let me linger momentarily on the statistics. Those who are familiar with the preposterously challenging academic filters that sieve the admitted from the Asian chaff – the gaokao in China, the suneung or CSAT in Korea, and the IIT-JEE in India – can guess what I am alluding to.

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Lessons from Books: An Inspiring Memoir and Guide to Surviving Suicide Loss

Monday, March 29, 2021

Nandini Murali: Numbed By Her Partner’s Sudden Passing

Nandini Murali needed to travel on work, for two days, from Madurai to Chennai. When she bid her doctor husband farewell, he waved her off with a customary list of to-dos, like some snacks and pickles to be brought back. Surprisingly, he also gifted her a gold nugget and asked her to exchange it for some jewelry. She was delighted.

When she returned to her home in Madurai,

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Lessons from Books: What Our Ongoing Obsession with Celebrities Tells Us about Ourselves

Saturday, March 13, 2021

After their recent interview with Oprah, Harry and Meghan Markle have created an expected and almost predictable flutter in the global media. The more fascinating question is why squabbles among the Royals should still occupy so much collective bandwidth, given the overweening issues we are currently dealing with.

In Celebrity Culture, Ellis Cashmore, who is currently a sociology professor at Aston (UK), wrestles with our contemporary obsession with “the private lives of the rich and famous.” One on the one hand,

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Lessons from Books: Boom Country? Charts The Stories Powering Indian Startups

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Alan Rosling Becomes a Founder Before Embarking on His Book

In the White Mughals, the writer William Dalrymple depicts the rather tempestuous love affair between a British dignitary and a Mughal noblewoman. Even after the nation’s independence, many Britishers have been tugged by a mysterious allure in India, even if the fascination does not lie in a romantic persona. In contemporary times, Alan Rosling, author of Boom Country?, has been as fiercely captivated by the broader social and cultural complexities that stitch up this heaving region,

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Lessons from Books: Walking with a Philosopher’s Outlook

Monday, February 22, 2021

During the pandemic, many of us have been compelled to alter our exercise routines. Earlier, I used to swim and walk. In the last few months, I’ve been forced, like many others, to just walk. And occasionally, when I walk alone, I’ve been wondering about what walking does to us. In his book, A Philosophy of Walking, the author Frederic Gros, a Philosophy Professor at the University of Paris XII, emphasizes that one of the charms of walking is that it is not a “sport”.

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Lessons from Podcasts: Generating Hype Like (or Through) Rockstars

Saturday, February 13, 2021

One of the offshoots of months of relative confinement has been the discovery, for me at least, of new forms of entertainment. Besides Web Series, it has been diverting to stumble on riveting podcasts, especially those that imbue the audio tales with a gritty, documentary feel. Wind of Change, created by the New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe is one of those gratifying listen-ins that starts with a tantalizing premise. The question that trigger’s Keefe’s quest across continents to engage with spies,

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Lessons from the Self: Flaunting my Silvers – Part 1

Friday, February 5, 2021

I’m 53. Strange that such a straightforward fact, the only data point perhaps, over which I can claim to have some certainty, should feel, in the contemporary era like a guilt-ridden admission. As if one ought to be defensive for having inhabited the planet for five whole decades, bearing witness not only to the tidal shifts and miniscule flutters in our surroundings, but also in the self. As a writer, I am naturally inclined and perhaps even obligated to stay introspective and curious.

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Lessons from a Memoir: Sam Miller Explores Fatherhood, Friendship and Love

Thursday, January 28, 2021

While motherhood has often been the subject of social, psychological and cultural studies, fatherhood has received relatively scanter attention. Such diminution of the paternal role affects not only fathers, but also mothers, who are then assumed to be primary caregivers or at least expected to play a more central parenting function.

In Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child, the Yale child psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Pruett,

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Lessons from Books: The Ten Dimensions of Highly Creative Personas

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Driven largely by the success of Apple and also by its founder’s layered persona, “design thinking”, has spawned many corporate workshops, process changes and adopters. After all, if Steve Jobs, who was as obsessed with the appearance of things, as with their functions, could foster such a technology behemoth, then surely the methods used by designers could usher new products, experiences or even ways of being? Humans, however, have always been fascinated by creators well before “design thinking” infiltrated our buzzy online chatter. 

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Lessons from Books: A Fascinating Study on How Men’s Bodies are Transforming inside A New India

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Often it takes an outsider’s captivation to shine a distinct light on a phenomenon that is unfolding around us in a seemingly slow and hence almost unnoticeable manner. Michiel Baas, an urban anthropologist who is currently engaged with the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, has written a richly-nuanced account of the manner in which male bodies are being reshaped in middle-class India. Though trained as an academic, he has consciously made his narrative non-fiction work,

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Lessons from Books: The Devotion of Suspect X Reveals Aspects of Japan

Monday, December 28, 2020

I’ve been particularly fascinated by Japanese crime fiction. Partly, this has to do with the setting. After all, Japan always seems to embody certain particularities – the crafted precision of its Haiku poems and ikebana arrangements, the grittiness of its neon-drenched cities, the slick ruthlessness of its gangsters or Yakuza. Then its seeming insularity from the world that’s contradicted by its embrace of American brands. As Douglas McGray puts it in his brilliant feature on “Japan’s Gross National Cool,” Japanese culture – its anime characters,

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Lessons from Books: Leveraging the Science of Habits to Drive Personal Changes

Friday, December 18, 2020

Usually the New Year compels resolutions. But 2021 might spark an urge to dismiss such rituals. And to break free from the persistent thrum of uncertainty that reverberates across banal decisions – Eat out today? Get a haircut? Invite guests? Even as vaccines are trundled across and between nations, it might be worthwhile to greet the New Year with the normalcy of any other year – when some of us still made hazy promises to the self,

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Lessons from Books: A Fascinating Dive into the Makeup of The Bengalis

Saturday, December 12, 2020

If one could choose the community to which one could belong, by birth, then I’d have chosen to be a Bengali. It’s not the language – which I don’t understand or speak – that fascinates me as much as a certain aura that surrounds the people, who stem from that marshy, deltaic region. What imbues them with such a mystique? No doubt, the Creative Greats from that area – starting with Rabindranath Tagore, who had with his poems,

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Arjun Agarwal, Cofounder of Outliers, Ushers a Fresh Perspective to Indian Art

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Art as Therapy: de Botton Shines a Torch on Another Impenetrable Terrain

Alain de Botton, who describes himself as a philosopher of “everyday life,” lends his signature approach to themes as varied as Love, Work, Travel and Architecture. Moreover, he is known for making the formidable “Classics” accessible to the binge-watching, attention-deprived mobs. Through his books and his easily digestible online videos, de Botton has also exposed the pomposity and perhaps, unnecessary obfuscation that has shielded the bite-sized summaries of tome-penning heavyweights like Goethe,

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Lessons from Books: Turning Our Gaze from the Soaring Skylines to the Sordid Undercity

Sunday, November 29, 2020

When driving out of Mumbai’s international airport, many upper-income Indians and foreign visitors may prefer to avert their gaze and look elsewhere. Anywhere else but at the sight that greets them at the Annawadi slum, where thousands are packed with a staggering density into a few hundred ramshackle huts.

But Katherine Boo was the kind of visitor who was unwilling to look away. Of course, as the wife of the Indian historian, Sunil Khilnani,

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Lessons from Books: Decoding P.G. Wodehouse and the Ploys of Humour

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Those who are exhausted by the grim graphs that chart the pandemic’s climb (or retreat), might do well to re-engage with P.G Wodehouse. To watch, with quiet chuckles and the occasional, loud cackle, as Bertie Wooster devises another harebrained scheme to extricate himself from a betrothal to the wrong woman or a distasteful prize-giving ceremony foisted on him by a wrathful aunt. And moreover, ignores the sage advice proffered by his all-knowing valet,

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Lessons from Books: How Parental Privilege Can Adversely Impact Children

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

It doesn’t take much to inhabit privilege in India. If, as a family, you own a house, a car, and your kids attend a somewhat decent private school, you are already materially distanced from the vast majority who throng our towns and cities. But people who belong to this exclusive set, even on relative terms, are usually aware that prosperity ushers different anxieties. One of the most common parental concerns echoed in such circles centers around the motivation of children.

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Sridhar Balan, Author, Publishing Veteran and Literary Columnist, Charts A Bibliophile’s Journey

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Library Book: Susan Orlean Recalls an Idyllic Time inside Libraries

Harry Peak was often characterized by his “very blond” hair. Growing up in Santa Fe, not too far from the giddying dazzle of Hollywood, the kid had a flair for theatrics and drama. But his skills often slid into playing the kind of pranks or telling the kind of lies that would garner attention. Later on, as an adult, he told his family that he had landed acting parts in movies,

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Dwelling in Books: The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Dwelling in Books

Like most readers, I feel like only a part of me lives in the real world. An equal or sometimes larger, almost disembodied self dwells inside pages – some pored over in years past, some recently encountered, some vividly recalled, many others awkwardly forgotten or misremembered. Since then the self has morphed. I thought that it might be fascinating to bump into some of the earlier voices, some calling out from the intimacy of my home library,

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