I am Malala

I have been on a reading slump lately mainly because of *cough* Everwing *cough* and inability to write a review for this book. I appreciated the book yet find myself unable to string words and phrases to summarize my thoughts about it. Part of it maybe is the awareness that the fight for equal rights on education is not yet over – not just in Pakistan but in other countries as well.

But for Malala, her message is clear:

I love my God. I thank my Allah. I talk to him all day. He is the greatest. By giving me this height to reach people, he has also given me great responsibilities. Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country—this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish. I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.

I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.

A lot can already be deduced from the book's title – I am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. The title is straight forward as I already got to know what she is fighting for and what happens near the end. The book then offers us a glimpse of her parents, childhood, environment and other elements that led to this wonderful story of courage during times of violence and uncertainties.

From my point of view, I would say his father was her primary influence.

My father would say to me, “Any organization which works for peace, I will join. If you want to resolve a dispute or come out from conflict, the very first thing is to speak the truth. If you have a headache and tell the doctor you have a stomachache, how can the doctor help? You must speak the truth. The truth will abolish fear.”

Though her mom may have provided strength through silence, it was his father that was also involved in various organizations and made public appearances.

As her journey continues in the international stage but away from her country, I am curious to see how this journey will end. Just a few hours back, I read she will be studying in Oxford. A lot of challenges remain and I do wish her well in her advocacies in life.

Let me end this with one of my favorite lines in the book:

We human beings don’t realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one knows how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.

Gratitude. Always.

Flawed

I am a fan of Cecelia Ahern. I started with Thanks for the Memories and I have not stopped since. 

Flawed, however, was a total turnaround story wise for her that I had to check if I got the author right. Don’t get me wrong, I also liked this book; but, the light feeling I usually have after reading Ahern’s books is not here in this one.

Flawed follows the life of Celestine North, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight simply for doing an act that is against the law but is the right thing to do. I don’t do spoilers but suffice to say that the absurdity of the reasoning got stuck with me that I breezed through the book in quite a short time. 

I just could not believe the consequences of Celestine’s simple act of compassion. It poses the question of “are you willing to do the right thing even if it is the hard choice?”. Some would just argue maybe it was not the right thing after all. But then again, thinking about it is different from actually doing it. I know that in every day, there are struggles in making the right call – especially if self preservation surfaces. 

I’ve learned that people aren’t cruel. Most people aren’t anyway, but people are strong on self-preservation. And if something doesn’t directly affect them, they don’t get involved.

Courage and strength – if only someone could have an endless supply of it.

I’ve learned that to be courageous is to feel fear within, every step of the way. Courage does not take over, it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take. It’s a battle or a dance as to whether to let it pervade. It takes courage to overcome, but it takes extreme fear to be courageous.

One thing Celestine has going for her though is the amazing support from her family. They stuck with her even with the additional challenges of having a Flawed person at the house – dad, mom, grand dad and even her sister. I honestly do not know how one person can survive a branding without a strong support system, especially with consequences that severe.
To end, I want to highlight this quote from her math teacher:

We see being Flawed as a strength, Celestine. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you never make a mistake, you’re never the wiser.

Totally agree. 

This book, however, has a sequel; so, as expected, it ends with a cliffhanger (good thing the Kindle version I bought had ten preview chapters).

The Bookshop on the Corner

The opening lines of Jenny Colgan’s message to the readers adequately captures what this book was all about:

Because this book is about reading and books, and how these things can change your life, always, I would argue, for the better. It’s also about what it feels like to move and start over (something I’ve done quite a lot in my life), and the effect that where we choose to live has on how we feel; and can falling in love in real life be like falling in love in stories, xxx

This book builds a good case for anyone to try and pick up a book… somewhere out there is a book that would peak and suit your interests – may it be a children story book, a series about cowboys and aliens, an end of the world apocalyptic novel or simply the bestsellers (either fiction or non-fiction).

There was a universe inside every human being every bit as big as the universe outside them. Books were the best way Nina knew—apart from, sometimes, music—to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe with the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between the two worlds.

If only Nina, the protagonist, can talk to us; finding those books would have been easy. Scattered in the story are anecdotes on how she was able to touch the lives of various characters just by finding the right books.

But the key takeaway for me of the story is how readers actually need to manage real life.

Some people buried their fears in food, she knew, and some in booze, and some in planning elaborate engagements and weddings and other life events that took up every spare moment of their time in case unpleasant thoughts intruded. But for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book. Books had been her solace when she was sad, her friends when she was lonely. They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down. Yet much as she disputed the fact, it was time to admit that books were not real life.

As much as we want it to be, books are not real life. 

I am not arguing against reading books.  I could personally attest on its value in helping me cope with whatever struggles I was facing. However, this book reminds us that there is still real life out there to manage and how complicated it will be if we mix our literary journeys with reality.

“It’s not about fricking romantic picnics and moonlit walks and storybook stuff! This is real life.

To end, I really liked this book. It was a refreshing feature of various contrasts – urban versus rural living and reality versus “storybook stuff”.  There were some parts I wish were not included but overall well told. 

Nina got very lucky with her friends, acquaintances that became friends (and lovers), and timing.  A lot of things could have gone wrong but Nina had her happy-ever-after after all. 

Now, back to real life I go.

Beginning of Everything 

Admittedly, the main reason why this book got my attention is due to its cover. The rollercoaster was a curious thing to see in a book. I picked it up and after reading the comments decided to give it a try.

At times, I had regrets while reading – it may be the confusing references or things I could not really relate to (e.g., debate, various authors quoted, panopticon, etc). But I am glad I continued on since what I liked about this book are the emotions and interaction amongst the characters. There is a confused cheerleader, grieving sister, tentative mom, left out best friend, broken teen, ineffective teacher, and even an intelligent dog. Though not all elements were mapped and introduced, for me there was enough information to go around that allows me to relate to the characters.  It is always tricky to start at the middle of a story but this book for me was able to execute it well.

As usual, I am trying to stay away from spoilers. 

Did I enjoy this? Yes, especially on parts where I felt it did not venture towards being too intellectual. Would I read it again? Maybe but not anytime soon.

Favorite quotes:

“The way I figured it, keeping quiet was safe. Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many.” – Ezra

“but I discovered a long time ago that the smarter you are, the more tempting it is to just let people imagine you. We move through each other’s lives like ghosts, leaving behind haunting memories of people who never existed. The popular jock. The mysterious new girl. But we’re the ones who choose, in the end, how people see us.” – Cassidy

And a few more quotes on growing up:

“I wondered what things became when you no longer needed them, and I wondered what the future would hold once we’d gotten past our personal tragedies and proven them ultimately survivable.” – Ezra

“But we had plenty of time for youthful indecision, both apart and together, for limping into the future past the unforgettable ash heaps of our histories.” – Ezra

Tao of Pooh

imageWithin each of us, there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore and a Pooh.  For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit.  Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results.  But that accomplishes nothing.  If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh.  As if from far away, it calls us with the voice of a child’s mind.  It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.

But the adult is not the highest state of development.  The end of the cycle is is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing Child.

I first read this book way back in college.  I loved it to the point that it even appeared in my yearbook as the answer to the question “What book changed your life?”:

Yearbook_TaoofPooh

After finishing this book in 2007, I tried looking for the other book “The Te of Piglet” but I could not find it in our local bookstores.

Years passed.

Luckily, when I remembered the 2nd book, there was also an opportunity to buy it from the US.  I grabbed the chance and even got myself a new copy of the “Tao of Pooh.” So, here I am creating a post in my cyber pensieve about one of my favorite books.

Tao of Pooh talks about Taoism concepts illustrated or explained through the interactions, characteristic and adventures of Pooh and his friends.

When you discard arrogance, complexity and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is fun

It starts with a description of a painting that exhibits three schools of thought and then went through each of the Taoism concepts of P’u (the uncarved block), Wu Wei (literal: without doing, causing or making) and Tz’u (caring or compassion).

The book then examined each of the characters’ main attribute to highlight some points:

  • Rabbit – cleverness
  • Owl – knowledge for the sake of looking knowledgeable
  • Eeyore – knowledge for the sake of complaining
  • Tigger – unaware of limitations

Once you face and understand your limitations, you can work with them, instead of having them work against you and get in your way, which is what they do when you ignore them, whether you realize it or not.  And then you will find that, in many cases, your limitations can be your strengths

Stories and teachings outside the Hundred Acre Wood were also in the book to further expound on some concepts.  It even used a Christopher Robin’s door sign to share this message:

The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple:  you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.

It used the Bisy Backson (which reads as Busy, Back Soon) note to present the story of someone being so busy that they end up wasting time instead of saving it.  NOTE TO SELF: I must remember to not be the same as a Bisy Backson, or else this may ring true:

A way of life that keeps saying, “around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place – happy and good – and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way.

My favorite part of the book is how it emphasizes the importance of recognizing and understanding one’s inner nature.

What we need to do is recognize inner nature and work with things as they are.  When we don’t we get into trouble

The way of self-reliance starts with recognizing who we are, what we’ve got to work with and what works best for us.

Doing so, will allow us to be the special person we all are:

The first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own inner nature and not lose sight of it.  For within the ugly duckling is the swan, inside the bouncy Tigger is the rescuer who knows the way, and in each of us is something special that we need to keep.

Over all, this book is a great short read (158 pages) full of substance.  nth time around, still one of my favorites.

Thank you to the calm, still and reflective bear Winnie the Pooh for being just is and showing the way.

Next stop:  Te of Piglet