Archive for the ‘oxymoron’ Category

Ancient Wit and Wisdom

July 22, 2009

LAUGH and LEARN
HUMOR WISDOM ENJOYMENT AND EDUCATION

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Everyone loves stories.

So whenever I want to drive home my point or communicate a message, I like to tell a story rather than pontificate.

Everyone loves to laugh.

Yes, storytelling is certainly more enjoyable if you add a dash of humour than laborious dogmatic pontificating or moral lectures.

Laughing and Learning go together.

Enjoyable learning is more effective as wit and humour are excellent vehicles for transmission of views and values besides the important fact that you do not bore, annoy, or hurt egos.

I am, therefore, always in search of such stories, tales, and parables, which impart wisdom and produce spiritual growth, and there is plenty of ancient wit and wisdom enshrined in teaching stories flourishing all around both oriental and occidental which have stood the test of time through the ages.

Teaching Stories are not mere jokes.

Teaching Stories relate events that are funny, foolish, bemusing, and sometimes even apparently stupid. But they usually have deeper meanings.

A good teaching story has several levels of meaning and interpretation and offers us opportunities to think in new ways.

At first you may just have a good laugh but as you think about it the significance becomes more and more profound.

Each story veils its knowledge and as you ruminate, the walls of its outer meanings crumble away and the beauty of the previously invisible inner wisdom is revealed, and you begin to identify yourself in the story, and to acknowledge that you too could be as foolish or as lacking in discernment as the characters in these classic tales.

An example of the concept of teaching stories is embodied in the tales of the inimitable Mulla Nasrudin narrated by Sufis to illustrate aspects of human behaviour which are relevant to both our personal and professional lives.

Last week I told someone this Mulla Nasrudin Story:

Mulla Nasrudin’s donkey died and he went into deep mourning weeping inconsolably. A friend seeing Nasrudin crying bitterly consoled, “What’s wrong with you – you didn’t weep and mourn so much even when your first wife died.”

“When my wife died all of you promised to find a younger and more beautiful wife for me – and indeed you did. However, nobody has promised to replace my donkey.”

And I’m sure you have heard this one:

One night, Nasrudin was on his hands and knees searching for his key in a well-lit area in the centre of the street. Some of his neighbours came to see why Nasrudin was on his hands and knees.

“What are you looking for, Nasrudin?” enquired one of his neighbours.

“My door key,” Nasrudin replied.

The helpful neighbours dropped to their hands and knees and joined Nasrudin in his search for the lost key.

After a long unsuccessful search, one of the neighbours asked: “We’ve looked everywhere. Are you sure you dropped it here?”

Nasrudin answers: “Of course I didn’t drop it here; I dropped it outside my door.”

“Then, why are you looking for it here?”

“Because there is much more light here,” responded Nasrudin.


When one reads or hears several Nasrudin tales, they can have a compelling effect. You can reflect, introspect or take them with a pinch of salt – the choice is yours.

You may ask the storyteller: “You relate stories, but do not tell us how to understand them” – to which he will reply: “How would you like it if the shopkeeper from whom you bought a banana ate it before your eyes, leaving you only the skin?”

One of the great bonuses in learning through humour is that even as you have a good time and doubt that you have learned anything, the lessons penetrate subtly, and stay with you, to come alive when the need arises. 

A few years ago, while walking home one evening, I stopped for a browse at Mumbai’s famous Strand Book Fair, held every January, at SNDT University’s Sunderbai Hall near Churchgate.

I saw a book – Tales of the Dervishes – and began browsing, and became so engrossed in the Sufi teaching stories that I lost all sense of time, and before I realized it, the clock struck eight and it was time to close.

Seeing the crowd, and in a hurry to get home, I decided to come the next day to buy the book, but when I did come the next day the one and only copy of this book which I liked so much had been sold out.

Since then I had been hunting for this rare elusive book and I was truly delighted to find a copy at Landmark Bookstore on Moledina Road in Pune Camp a few months ago.

Dear Reader, permit me to tell you a bit about this wonderful book, a truly delightfully illuminating assortment of Sufi Teaching Stories.

Title: Tales of the Dervishes

Author: Idries Shah (1967)

Arkana Penguin (1993)

ISBN 0-14-019358-8

The author has collated a very meaningful selection of Sufi Teaching Stories ranging from the 7th century to the 20th century and has given chronological references to sources which comprise Sufi Masters, classics and manuscripts.

I am sure you may be familiar with a few of these classic tales of wisdom, or versions of them, like The Three Fishes, How to Catch Monkeys, and The Blind Ones and the Matter of the Elephant, but there are so many unique gems of wit and wisdom.

I recommend that you must read each teaching story thrice.

Yes, thrice!

Read the story once. It may entertain you; maybe produce a laugh, like a joke.

Read the story the second time. Reflect on it. Apply it to your life. That will give you a taste of self-discovery.

Read the story again, for the third time, after you have reflected on it. Carry the story around in your mind all day and allow its fragrance, its melody to haunt you. Create a silence within you and let the story reveal to you its inner depth and meaning. Let it speak to your heart, not to your brain. This will give you a feel for the mystical and you will develop the art of tasting and feeling the inner meaning of such stories to the point that they transform you.

I’ll not tell you more about the droll, witty, entertaining yet tremendously meaningful and enlightening tales in this book – that you must read yourself – but I will end this piece by narrating my favourite Mulla Nasrudin teaching story:

On his way from Persia to India, Mulla Nasrudin saw a man selling a small long green fruit which he had never seen before.  Curious, he asked the vendor:  “What is this lovely fruit?”

“Chillies. Fresh Green Chillies,” said the Vendor.

Mulla Nasrudin gave the vendor a gold coin and the Vendor was so overjoyed that he gave Nasrudin the full basket of green Chillies.

Mulla Nasrudin sat down under a tree and started to munch the Chillies and   within a few seconds, his mouth was burning. Tears streamed down his cheeks, his nose watered copiously and there was fire his throat.

But, utterly nonchalant, Nasrudin went on eating the chillies and his condition began to get worse and worse.

Seeing his pitiable condition, a passerby asked, “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you stop eating those hot Chillies?”

“May be there is one that is sweet, “Nasrudin answered. “I keep waiting for the sweet one!” Nasrudin said and he kept on eating the fiery Chillies.

On his way back, the passerby saw that Mulla Nasrudin’s condition had become even more terrible, but he kept on eating, and the basket of Chillies was almost empty.

“Stop at once or you will die.  There are no sweet Chillies!” the passerby shouted at Nasrudin.

“I cannot stop until I have finished the whole basketful,” Nasrudin said, croaking in agony, “I have paid for the full basket   I am not eating Chillies anymore.  I am eating my money”.

Dear Reader – Read this story once more, close your eyes, think about it and let the story perambulate in your mind, reflect on it, and apply it to your life.

Don’t we cling on to things, people and places that we know we should let go and move on, at first hoping to find ‘sweet one’ and even when we discover that there is no ‘sweet chilli’ we still continue to shackle and bind ourselves to material things, memories and persons who we know are painful, harmful and detrimental just to ‘get our money’s worth’ when we should ‘let go’ and move on in life and liberate ourselves.

Hey, there I go pontificating again.

It’s time for you, Dear Reader, to read The Tales of the Dervishes and it is high time you enlightened me with a Teaching Story.

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this review.

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My Food Adventures

December 9, 2008

APPETITE FOR A STROLL 

[Foodie Adventures, Simple Recipes, Musings on The Art of Eating and Vikram Karve’s Authentic Guide to Value For Money Food in Mumbai and Pune]


By


VIKRAM KARVE

Please click the link and read the review of Appetite for a Stroll titled Food for Soul in the Indian Express [Pune] Sunday 7th September 2008 

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/358363.html

expressonline book review

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Food-for-soul/358363/#

 

If you want to get a copy of the book just click the links below:

 

http://www.indiaplaza.in/finalpage.aspx?storename=books&sku=9788190690096&ct=2

 

http://books.sulekha.com/book/appetite-for-a-stroll/default.htm

 

 

I am sure you will enjoy reading the book.

Happy Reading and Happy Eating

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

VIKRAM KARVE

Swami Rama Selected Poems

March 20, 2008

Book Review Swami Rama: Selected PoemsAn Insight on Life EnlightenedCompiled & Translated by Shakuntala BodasPublished New Delhi 2007   My indefatigable aunt Shakuntala Bodas, an ardent and committed devotee of Swami Rama, has authored a number of books in English, Hindi and Marathi on Swami Rama, his life and his teachings. My favorite is Swami Rama : Selected Poems – An Insight on Life Enlightened compiled & translated by Shakuntala Bodas. Pessimism or disappointment is living deathSo please do not allow it entrance into your mindKeep your body, mind, and energy filledWith enthusiasm, coupled with peace and balanced mind. This is an excerpt from the poem titled The Secret of a Happy Life.   Poetry, breathtaking in its simplicity, expressing clear thoughts and delivering precise message – that is the beauty of the poems in this compilation.  The book has a large number of simple evocative poems; each one will touch your soul in some way or the other. The sincere devotion, earnest zeal and erudition of the author are evident in the free-hand translations, and as one absorbs the delightful poems, one does experience a sense of sublime joy. At the beginning of the book, Shakuntala Bodas explains the background, reasons for writing this book, and recounts the life story of Swami Rama. Her effortless, attractive writing style makes this book a delight to read. Dear Reader, doesn’t matter whether you are spiritually inclined or not, get a copy of this book, carry it with you, open a page at random, read a poem, and you will feel inspired and spiritually elated.    [Reviewed by Vikram Waman Karve] http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve vikramkarve@hotmail.com vikramkarve@sify.com  

EMC for Product Designers – A Book Review

February 10, 2008

Click the link below and read on

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/02/an-excellent-reference-book.htm

Regards

Vikram Karve

A Delightful Book for Dog Lovers – Marley & Me – Book Review

December 11, 2007

Click the link or read the review posted below the link

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/12/marley-amp-me-life-and-love-with-the-world-s-worst.htm

BOOK REVIEW  MARLEY & MELife and Love with the World’s Worst Dog By John Grogan [Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2006]ISBN 0 340 92209 5  

[Reviewed by Vikram Karve]

  The essence of this book is encapsulated in the ruminations of the author after he buried his beloved dog Marley: “Was it possible for a dog – any dog, but especially a nutty, wildly uncontrollable one like ours – to point humans to the things that really mattered in life? I believed it was. Loyalty. Courage. Devotion. Simplicity. Joy. And the things that did not matter, too. A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him…A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not.”  We have a dog – a Doberman called Sherry. We have given her our hearts and she has given us her unconditional loyalty, devotion and love. She never demands much. A walk in the morning, a walk in the evening, a bit of playing, a meal, a bit of baby talk and cuddly love, and she fills our moments with her natural spontaneous exuberant devotion, warm affection, zeal and joy. It’s true – in order to understand the art of living completely one must keep a dog at least once in one’s lifetime.  In this wonderful book the author describes his thirteen-year “love affair” with his Labrador retriever Marley, who enlivened the life of a young married couple, shared their moments of happiness and grief, and ensured there was never a dull moment in their family life. Marley certainly wasn’t the “perfect adorable model dog” – in fact, the author calls Marley the “world’s worst dog” who won their hearts with his faithful devotion and wholehearted love.  The first person narrative lends an air of authenticity and intimacy to the story. The friendly, simple writing style makes this book an easy read foe all ages. In the preface, he describes his delightful childhood days with his dog Shaun who was his faithful companion from when the author was ten years old for fourteen years till the author completed his college education and moved on to work. Shaun was a perfect dog who set the standard by which the author would judge all other dogs to come. Having set such a high benchmark, it’s no wonder the author calls Marley the “world’s worst dog”!  I will not delve on Marley’s story. You and deprive you of the pleasure of discovering it yourself. If you are a dog lover and have been a dog owner you will chuckle in your mind’s eye as you read about the naughty antics of Marley and recall similar frolics by your very own dog. If you have never kept a dog and are thinking of doing so then you’ll get an idea of what to expect! Marley’s life story makes one thing evident – once a dog comes into your home, he will soon win the hearts of your entire family and friends and change the way you look at life forever.  

Narrating the trials and tribulations owing to Marley’s sometimes exasperating behavior, interspersed with the story of his own family life including the spats with his wife due to Marley, the moments of happiness and pain the shared with Marley, and the hilarious episodes like the one when Marley was kicked out of the dog-training obedience classes, John Morgan writes in racy style which will keep you engrossed – once you start reading you will laugh, you will cry, at times a flood of emotion will engulf you; but you will remain captivated – the book is “unputdownable”.

  

Just like it happened to the author, the pressures of work may separate my darling dog Sherry and me for the first time since she came into our lives one and a half years ago. She has become such an inseparable part of my life. I dread to think of what is going to happen. Can I live without Sherry? Where will Sherry live? I wonder if there are any boarding kennels or dog-sitters here in India, especially at Pune. How will my dear Sherry cope without me? And what will I do without her? Sherry and me, we both will be heart-broken. I pray to God that something will work out for the better and Sherry and I will always be together. Dear Friends, do pray for us.

  

I loved reading “Marley and Me” and commend this superb book. If you are a dog lover you will enjoy every moment of this enthralling tale. Even if you are not a dog lover you will love this mirthful, moving story of Marley and his family. At times, tears may well up in your eyes. This delightful memoir reminds us that like Marley, we must all live our life to its fullest and, most importantly, we must learn to love people unconditionally, like dogs do. Read this heartwarming book, give it to your children and you’ll be surprised how much a dog can change your life for the better and how much we humans can learn from dogs.

   Reviewed by Vikram Waman KarvePuneIndia  http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve http://www.ryze.com/go/karve vikramkarve@hotmail.com vikramkarve@sify.com             

PUNE Queen of the Deccan

October 7, 2007

Pune is the most happening city in Western India.

 Are you from Pune, a true blue Punekar? Or do you want to know more about Pune and its glorious heritage, history and past?

 I recently came across a very informative book on Pune – why don’t you click the link below and read about it

 http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/10/pune-queen-of-the-deccan.htm

And do send me your comments

Vikram Karve

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

Alma Mater – ITBHU

August 17, 2007

Alma Mater

 

 

 

ITBHU  

 

Institute of Technology

 

Banaras Hindu University

 

Varanasi

 

India

       

On what basis do you judge an educational institution – an Engineering College or a B-School? In today’s world there is just one criterion – market value – the starting salaries and campus placement the students get – the more outrageously astronomical the pay packets, and the greater the percentage of lucrative campus placements – the better the institution. And with the increasing commercialization of education, many institutes blatantly compete, advertise, and focus on these materialistic aspects to attract students – it’s a rat race.

     

I feel the cardinal yardstick for appraising the true merit of an educational institution is the value-addition it instills in its alumni – and I’m not talking of utility and materialistic values alone; but more importantly the inculcation and enhancement of intrinsic and intangible higher values. The student should feel he or she has changed for the better, professionally and personally; and so should other stakeholders observing the student from the outside be able to discern the value enhancement.

     

I studied for my B.Tech. in Electronics Engineering at ITBHU from 1972 to 1977 (first batch IIT JEE) and I experienced the well-rounded value addition I have mentioned above. Later in life, being academically inclined, I continued studying, completed many courses, a Post Graduate Diploma in Management, an Engineering and Technology Post Graduation [M.Tech.] at a premier IIT and even taught for many years at prestigious academic institutions of higher learning, but I shall always cherish my days at ITBHU the most. I knew I was a better man, in my entirety, having passed through the portals of ITBHU, and I’m sure those scrutinizing me from the outside felt the same way.

 

 

 

ITBHU was amalgamated by integrating three of the country’s oldest and best engineering colleges: BENCO ( Banaras Engineering College ) – the first in the Orient, and certainly in India , to introduce the disciplines of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, MINMET – the pioneer in Mining and Metallurgy in India , and College of Technology – the first to start Chemical and Ceramic Engineering. Indeed these three institutions were the harbingers of industrialization in our country.

     

In my time ITBHU was indeed a center of excellence, an apt institution to study in, and a lovely place to live in. The vast verdant lush green semi-circular campus at the southern end of Varanasi , the largest university campus I have ever seen, with its pleasant and relaxed atmosphere was ideal for student life. And being a part of a premier university afforded one a consummate multidisciplinary experience.

     

It was a delightful and fulfilling experience I will always cherish – learning from erudite and totally dedicated Professors, who were authorities in their fields of specialization, amidst excellent academic facilities and ambience, elaborate labs and workshops, lush green campus, well-designed comfortable hostels, delicious food, expansive sports fields and facilities for all types of sports, the beautiful swimming pool, the unique well-stocked and intellectually inspiring Gaekwad library, and the exquisite temple that added a spiritual dimension to the scholarly ambiance. One could learn heritage and foreign languages, fine arts, music, indology, philosophy, yoga, pursue hobbies like numismatics – the avenues for learning were mind-boggling. The idyllic environs of BHU helped one develop a philosophical attitude to life.

     

Like all premier institutes ITBHU was fully residential, which fostered camaraderie and facilitated lifelong friendships amongst the alumni. I can never forget those delightful moments in Dhanrajgiri, Morvi, Vishwakarma, Vishveswarayya and CV Raman hostels, mouthwatering memories of the Lavang Lata and Lassi at Pehelwan’s in Lanka, the Lal Peda opposite Sankat Mochan, and the delicious wholesome cuisine of the city, and the cycle trips all over Varanasi, Sarnath, and even across the holy and sacred Ganga on the pontoon bridge to watch the Ram Lila at Ramnagar.

     

Way back then, in the nineteen seventies, ITBHU was a wonderful place to study engineering and live one’s formative years in. I wonder what my dear alma mater is like now!

         

VIKRAM KARVE

     

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

     

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

     

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vikramkarve@sify.com

   

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

                   

Lin Yutang – The Importance of Living

August 10, 2007

THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING

 

 

 

Book Review of THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING by LIN YUTANG

 

[A book that shaped my life and taught me the art of living]

 

by

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is one book you will never find in my bookcase – you will always find it by my bedside near my pillow. At night, just before I sleep, I open the book to any random page, and read till I drift off to blissful idyllic sleep.

 

 

 

The name of this book, which has had a profound effect on me, maybe even subconsciously shaped my philosophy of life, is called: The Importance of Living written in 1937 by the Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang.

 

 

 

But first, let me tell you a story, maybe apocryphal, about a scholar who had thoroughly studied the Bhagavad Gita for many years, considered himself an expert, traveled far and wide delivering discourses on the teachings of the Gita and was widely acknowledged as an authority on the subject. His ultimate desire was to deliver a discourse on the Bhagavad Gita at Benares, which was the sanctum sanctorum of learning. So he went to Benares, and impressed by the scholar’s erudition and fame the king invited him to deliver a discourse on the Gita in his court. All the wise men of Benares assembled to hear the Scholar, but just as he began to speak the king interrupted him and told him to read the Bhagavad Gita one more time in the evening and deliver his discourse the next day. The Scholar was furious but he had no choice but to comply with the king’s wishes.

 

 

 

As he read the Gita in the evening, he realized some new meanings and updated his speech accordingly. Next day the same thing happened – the moment the scholar began to speak the king interrupted him and told him to read the Gita once more and then come and give his lecture. And again as the Scholar read the Gita he comprehended some new wisdom – something he hadn’t perceived before. So he incorporated his new findings and proceeded to deliver his talk.

 

 

 

Again the same thing happened – the king interrupted him and told him to read the Gita once more before he gave his discourse. And again the scholar discovered some new wisdom in the Gita. This cycle went on for days till the scholar realized how ignorant he was and how much more there was to learn form the Gita that he gave up the idea of delivering the discourse and decided to devote himself completely to the study of the Bhagavad Gita.

 

 

 

And the one morning, when the scholar was deeply immersed in his study, the king went to the scholar’s house, sat before him with folded hands and requested the scholar to enlighten him about the teachings of the Gita.

 

 

 

It’s the same with any great book. Every time you read it, something new emerges, and you realize you have so much more to learn from it. I have read The Importance of Living innumerable times, again and again, with renewed pleasure, and every time I read it I imbibe a different flavor, and grasp new wisdom, which delves on all aspects of the art of living, and I have realized that there is more significance and value in Lin Yutang’s magnum opus than I am capable of appreciating. So let me not be as presumptuous as to attempt to evaluate this classic treatise – I’ll just try to gently pilot you along in random vignettes to give you a flavor of this delightful philosophical gem.

 

 

 

Let’s open this delightful book to a few random pages, read some lines to give you glimpse into the wisdom on the art of living contained in this masterpiece. In the section on Leisure and Friendship are these words: “Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely”. Reflect on this, let these words perambulate in your mind for some time. There is nothing that man enjoys more than leisure. The highest value of time is when you are doing what you love and want to do. During leisure you are free to choose what you want to do and enjoy doing. So leisure enables you realize the highest value of your time!

 

 

 

Tell me, why do you work? Is it for job satisfaction? Or is it to earn money so that you can enjoy satisfaction off the job? In fact, most of us work for our leisure, because there is nothing we enjoy more than leisure. Elaborating on a theory of leisure the book says: “Time is useful because it is not being used. Leisure is like unoccupied floor space in a room…it is that unoccupied space which makes a room habitable, as it is our leisure hours which make life endurable”. Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.

 

 

 

Enunciating the distinction between Buddhism and Taoism: “The goal of the Buddhist is that he shall not want anything, while the goal of the Taoist is that he shall not be wanted at all”, the author describes the tremendous advantages of obscurity, deduces that only he who is not wanted by the public can be a carefree individual, and only he who is a carefree individual can be a happy human being and concludes with a philosophy: “Nothing matter to a man who says nothing matters”.

 

 

 

“How are we to live? How shall we enjoy life, and who can best enjoy life?” The feast of life is before us; the only question is what appetite we have for it. The appetite is the thing, and not the feast. The book has fourteen chapters on various facets of the importance and enjoyment of living and once you start reading it is unputdownable. The Importance of Loafing, The Enjoyment of the Home, Nature, Travel, Culture, The Art of Thinking, Eating, Reading, Writing – the range and variety of topics covered indeed make fascinating reading.

 

 

 

The best way to read this book is to browse whatever appeals to you, randomly, in an unstructured and haphazard manner. Think of yourself as a traveler in the philosophical or spiritual domain. The essence of travel is to have no destination. A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to; a perfect traveler does not know where he came from!

 

 

 

Are you the ambitious competitive go-getter obsessed with an overpowering desire for achieving quick success – craving for power, wealth, fame, and the status and money-oriented aspects of life? Do you value material possessions more than peace of mind? Is external achievement more important than inner tranquility? Then don’t read this book now, as you may be too “busy” in the competitive rat race and don’t have any time to “waste” on anything that doesn’t give you something tangible in return. Read The Importance of Living after you’ve burned out, had a heart attack or nervous breakdown – when you’ll have plenty of time and, perhaps, the inclination to reflect, contemplate and delve upon the more intangible philosophical aspects of life.

 

 

 

But if you are happy where you are and content with what you have, place living above thinking, and are interested in savoring the feast of life and its joys, then this witty philosophical treatise on the art of living in its entirety is the book for you. The Importance of Living presents an uncomplicated approach to living life to its fullest in today’s rapidly changing, fast paced, competitive, ambition dominated, money and status oriented, commercialized world, enabling each one of us to enjoy inner peace and happiness.

 

   

 

Sometimes, it is a great pity to read a good book too early in life. The first impression is the one that counts. Young people should be careful in their reading, as old people in eating their food. They should not eat too much. They should chew it well. Like you should eat gourmet food only when you are ready for it, you should read a good book only when you are ready for it. Mature wisdom cannot be appreciated until one becomes mature.

 

 

 

But The Importance of Living is a book for all ages. Of 1937 vintage, an ancestor and precursor of modern “self-help” books, it is a delightful philosophical treatise, which advocates a humorous and vagabond attitude towards life and deals with a variety of topics encompassing the art of living. Is such a philosophy of life relevant today? Read the book, try out and practice whatever appeals to you in your daily life, experiment, enjoy yourself, elevate your plane of living, and maybe your entire way of life may change forever.

 

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com   

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve

 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

   

Lin Yutang

August 10, 2007

A RELAXING BOOK

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

   

[ Book Review of THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING by LIN YUTANG ]

     

Whenever I want to unwind and relax, I pick out one of my favorite books from my bookcase, settle down in my easy-chair, put my feet up, and open the book to any random page, or thumb through the pages, and dip into whatever arrests my attention, and as I begin reading I experience a soothing feeling and a calm tranquil sensation of absolute and perfect relaxation. From time to time, I let myself drift off into sweet slumber, and when I come around I begin my relaxed reading again. So the cycle continues till my mind recaptures the harmony it has lost during the hustle and bustle of daily life, and my inner self feels soothingly nourished.

 

The book is called  THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING and is compiled by Lin Yutang, the is more famous for his magnum opus THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING, the classic seminal philosophical masterpiece on The Art of Living [ do read my book review on the links below:

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/01/the-art-of-living.htm

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2007/01/05/the-art-of-living/  

 

or somewhere on this blog of mine].

   

I’ve got a hardcover copy of the book, published by Heinemann London in 1961, which I obtained, by a stroke of luck, from a raddiwala a few years ago. The book comprises translations from the Chinese. There are essays, reflections, poems, ancient wit and wisdom, literature, writings on The Art of Living, Enjoyment of Life and Zen, parables, epigrams and proverbs. The writings focus on the simple joys of living and distinction between the practical and the poetic vision of life.

 

There is wit and subtle humor throughout the book. Here is a story titled “Prohibition” from the chapter on Ancient Wit and Wisdom.

 

In the time of the ruler of Shu, Shienchu (third century AD) there was prohibition on wine on account of a drought…There were people who were arrested for having vats and distillery apparatus in their houses, punishable in the same terms as those actually caught making illegal liquor. Chien Yung was driving in the country with the ruler when they saw a young man.

“Have that man arrested,’ cried Chien Yung.

“What has he done?” asked the ruler in puzzlement.

“He is going to commit adultery.”

“How do you know?”

“He has the organs of adultery, just as those people have their vats.”

The ruler broke out into a loud laugh and ordered that the people arrested for mere possession of vats released.

 

The meat of the book is the section on “Home and Daily Living” which encompasses a wide range of facets of the art of living and enjoyment of daily life.

 

I’ll end with an epigram of Yuan Chunglang – Beware of the man who has no hobbies. If he is not sincere in loving what he loves, he is also probably not sincere in hating what he professes to hate.

 

Dear Reader. First read The Importance of Living and then read The Importance of Understanding. And I’m sure you will see your life from a different perspective.

     

VIKRAM KARVE

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

FOOD

June 29, 2007

 FOOD   

Food is a basic necessity of man, not just a mere necessity but a desire, and, probably, there is no greater love than the love of food.

 

 

I am an avid Foodie, and not only do I love and relish eating good food, but I am fond of all aspects of food – reading, writing, watching about food. So when I chanced upon an appetizing anthology, of writings on Food, in my library I was indeed enticed. Dear Reader, and Fellow Foodie, let me tell you about it.

 

 

Title: FOOD  An Oxford Anthology

Edited by: BRIGID ALLEN

Published by: Oxford University Press (1994)

ISBN 0-19-212327-0

 

 

The brief introduction elucidates that “The chief objects of this anthology are to satisfy curiosity (about what and how people ate, what they felt about food, how they celebrated with it, and how it varied from country to country and region to region), and to provide both pleasure and literary reflection.” The anthology comprises pieces of prose and poetry which explore attitudes, emotional and social resonances connected with food.

 

 

The anthology comprises six parts titled – People, Foodstuffs and Cooking, Eating at Home and Abroad, Lavishness, Austerity, and Food and Emotions – and each past contains a number of interesting sections on a variety of topics ranging from Food and Character, Eating Habits, Recipes, Parties and Ceremonial Food to explorations between Food and various emotions like Dreams, fantasy, Distress, Happiness, Sensuality, Love, and Sex.

 

 

“Food is a profound subject and one, incidentally, about which no writer lies,” writes Iris Murdoch (p 20) in the featured extract of The Sea, The Sea, in the chapter on Eating Habits, and continues, “I wonder whence I derived my felicitous gastronomic intelligence.”  Appetizing descriptions of food experienced by travelers all over the world, including on board ships, are featured in the section on Eating at Home and Abroad. The pieces on India (reminiscent of the Raj including pieces by VS Naipaul and EM Forster) make entertaining reading as do the recipes in poetry form.

 

 

The meat of the book is the section titled “Lavishness” comprising writings on Ceremonial Food, Parties, Greed, Excess – and lest you get carried away and indulge yourself too much there immediately follows the chapter on “Austerity” which extols the virtues of Simple Food, Diets and Dieting and goes on to kill your appetite with nauseating stomach-churning prose and poems on Unpleasant Food.

 

 

I enjoyed the chapter on Food and Emotions. Here is a poem on Food and Happiness “TO A POOR OLD WOMAN” (p 388):

 munching a plum onthe street a paper bagof them in her hand They taste good to herThey taste goodto her. They taste

good to her.

  

And what can I say on the concluding section of the anthology titled “Food, Sensuality, Love, and Sex”? Well, Dear Reader, why don’t you read it for yourself?

 

 

The dust jacket, with a decorative illustration of a vegetable market on the cover, introduces the Editor, Brigid Allen, as a cookery writer and historian educated at Oxford and London Universities and indeed she has compiled an appetizing, droll and enjoyable collection of writing on Food. A good book on food – nourishing reading for foodies and bibliophiles alike.

    VIKRAM KARVE  

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

 

 

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve

 

 

http://vwkarve.wordpress.com

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com