Heartless Salesperson or Noble Philantrophist? — Hello, I’m Sindhu and I Have a Big Problem

When I told my friends for the first time that my mum asked me to select books that I don’t want and sell them to a second-hand store because I had run out of room for books, a lot of my friends looked at me sympathetically. Some of them looked physically sick at the idea. I felt horrible at the thought at first, but I did it. I did it a couple of times more after that and now I don’t mind at all. It’s true! And yes, I am ready for the brickbats now.

I realize now that my discomfort at the idea had more to do with the thought of sorting through my many books than with actually giving some of them away. Because I’m a lazy fuck who hates sorting and cleaning with the passion of a thousand burning suns. (10 Things I Hate About You? Anybody?) I wouldn’t admit that to myself initially, but I know it’s true.

Firstly, I don’t mind borrowing books from a friend. I haven’t ever had an obsessive need to “own” a book unless it’s one I truly adore and want to reread repeatedly.

But, you’ll discover very quickly, if you haven’t already, I’m obsessive in a number of other ways. I read with a determination bordering on obsession. I carry a book with me EVERYWHERE. I have offended friends by bringing a book to dinner dates with them. “How boring do you think we’re going to be?” But I can’t stop myself.

You can only imagine how obsessively I buy books. I have called it a distinct pleasure from actually reading books in the past.  My little 7X7 hostel room is cluttered with about a hundred books. “Why don’t you take some of them home?” people ask me. The answer is that I do take 10 or so books home each time I go home. But I also bring them back in large numbers. And I buy new books. A lot. I also have my parents carry books back each time they visit. But the process of bring-back-books-and-buy-even-more never stops.

I have a pretty sweet deal in a second-hand bookstore I’ve worked in before. I can go trade in books for new books. He gives me a twenty percent mark-up if I trade books and not ask for cash, and he gives me a twenty-five percent employee discount! This is the best thing, because, while I have to give away books, I get to come back with brand new ones (Well, some are second-hand, but you get the idea!) so I’m happy, and they’re always fewer in number than the ones I’ve sold so my mum is also happy. And as the owner of the store points out, such understandings ensure that the stock in his store is in circulation instead of stagnating. Stagnation is a very real problem of chain bookstores, I’ve noticed, because, a lot of the time, the only new books they get in are new releases. (Also, a lot of chain bookstores have begun to stock only popular and well-known books in addition to any number of absurd self-help and “management” books which make me want to throw up. But that’s a rant for another day.)

And now, I’m panicking. I’m in my fourth year and I’m in a five-year course. That means that the books need to start going and they need to stop coming in at some point before the start of the next academic year. –sob-

And I can’t carry them to my hometown, where the aforementioned bookstore is, because of the luggage weight limits on the damned planes. I’ve considered couriering them home and I will do that with my favourites, but at the beginning of the next academic year, I will have a book sale in my college and give my books away to my juniors for cold hard cash! The thought that I will have to part with so many books at once without even the immediate comfort of new ones is heartbreaking. But I will do it. I know I need to. And I will take comfort in the thought that my books will go into eager hands and result in many happy hours for yet another person.

In 1710, the Statute of Anne, the first copyright Act in the world was passed with the over-arching aim of the “encouragement of learning”. That phrase has been ringing in my ears ever since I heard it in my intellectual property law class because of its simplicity and effectiveness.(Unlike a lot of legal concepts which are lacking in both)  Wouldn’t selling my books be a way to encourage learning?

I love my books because each one of them has shaped me as a person, has helped me to develop and express my thoughts, and has, most importantly, made me very, very happy. There are some which I will reread repeatedly, when I am alone and need the comfort of an old friend, but I will spend most of my time reading new books and soaking up what they have to offer. Keeping all my books seems to me to be unnecessary hoarding, considering I own so many of them, mostly thanks to the generosity and understanding of my parents. My mum gave me a credit card for “emergencies and books”. Her logic was that books are always emergencies anyway. (<3) I know that not everyone is as fortunate as me. Second hand books and libraries are the best solutions for such people. One day, I will start a library. One day, I will write books and donate copies to libraries. One day, I will be a lawyer always, always on the side of fair use and public interest. Until then, my little book sale will hopefully contribute towards the “encouragement of learning”.

Besides, when one hasn’t a choice but to sleep with books on one’s BED, one’s only alternatives are divine intervention or a book sale!

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The Absurdity of Having Guilty Pleasures

I recently became active on Goodreads. Those of you who don’t know what it is, check it out. It’s addictive. Just remember that I warned you.

I used the Barcode Scan option in the Goodreads app on my smartphone like a baws (I LOVE that little beep it makes! Do you love the beep? And I get excited every time it finds the correct book. It’s…it’s like magic!) and scanned one of my favourite books and gave it four stars even if it is –shudder- “chick-lit”. I then stared at my phone for a few minutes and added in the comments box: “A guilty pleasure.  :)”

I’m not very sure why I felt the need to clarify this to the world. Why did I feel the need to be guilty about enjoying this book?Yes, it’s extremely girly. Yes, it has a corny, happy ending of the kind that “serious” readers abhor. It’s just comforting, entertaining and enjoyable.

It’s true that I generally don’t enjoy this “chick-lit” genre of books, also known as popcorn fiction or beach-reads. I find the very name  derogatory to the “chicks” who may enjoy them, and I find that the stories themselves are  stereotypical and I think they degrade women despite the fact that their target audience is women. I also agree that they give people unrealistic expectations about romantic love. (Trust me ladies, being with a man who gives you butterflies in your stomach each time he looks at you will be very disconcerting and uncomfortable in the long run!)

The thing about me is, I’m constantly on the lookout with books with female protagonists who live normal, relatable lives, to read when I’m down or when I am not in the mood to read something new. Needless to say, this is an uphill task because most female characters in adult fiction are side-lined or entirely generic. And the ones in girly books are, well, way too girly. Or way too helpless. Or worse, way too focused on finding her “soul-mate”. I understand that finding romantic love has never been more important that now, with familial bonds weakening and friends being entirely too absorbed in their own careers, and I am in fact, a believer in romantic love. But what about your life? The one outside of your significant other? It infuriates me, especially when women themselves are the ones producing such tripe. This task was a lot easier when I was a teenager, it seems, and I could comfortably read and reread Jacqueline Wilson books till the books got tattered and the covers came off. I still give them a go sometimes when I’m down, though of course, the age difference is too great for the characters to be relatable now. It’s sad but I now find it easier to relate to a thirty-something protagonist than a teenage protagonist, despite only being in my early twenties. (Except Katniss Everdeen. She’s awesome.)

I must stop digressing.

After looking long and hard, I feel like people imagine that clever, unique teenagers will evolve into dull, man-obsessed young adults and therefore won’t enjoy books about clever, unique girls their age anymore.

Anyway, this book is an exception of sorts. The book was more sensibly written than most chick-lit and I’ve read it more times than I can count. And it’s made me feel fuzzy and happy each time. And this yet again begs the question: Why am I guilty about owning it and reading it and enjoying it? Does it make me less of a feminist to read a book that targets women exclusively? Does it reduce my intelligence in any way to have a comforting book that doesn’t hodge-podge-jelly-brainify me, when I’m having a bad day? (Blog title reference for the win!) Does it make me a fraud of some sort if I own a book that doesn’t make me think or add value to my life in some way, except to make me happy? I think about all these questions and the answer to all of them seems to be no. Doesn’t it?

Yet, this book will only ever be a guilty pleasure in my bookshelves, the one I won’t list as a favourite, even though it probably is. I feel like this makes me a fraud more than anything else. I’m afraid of being judged, as someone shallow, as someone silly, just like I judge people who read “chick-lit”, despite knowing a number of exceptions. I just start off by having this assumption and this makes me kind of snobbish and shallow.

Is there something wrong with reading “chick-lit” books or is there something wrong with the classification itself? Why aren’t there any dude-lit books?  Or is any book that isn’t chick-lit automatically dude-lit? (Excepting feminist literature, I mean) All of these questions confuse me greatly. I feel sad that some sort of patriarchy seems to have seeped into one’s choice of literature as well. When did I become so judgmental? I miss being a child where I devoured every book, including wildly age-inappropriate books without any thought as to whom it may be targeted at.

What is your opinion on so-called Chick-lit and the way people perceive it?

Why do people have guilty pleasure books, movies and shows?  It’s not like crisps, or nutella or alcohol, or something remotely addictive or unhealthy for one to feel guilty about it!

Do you judge people based on their choices in literature, movies or music? Do you subscribe to the theory, “It’s not what you’re like; it’s what you like”? (High Fidelity reference. Read it.)

Do you have any recommendations of books with strong female protagonists?

Do you know of any good books with bookworm protagonists? I miss those.

Tell me in the comments.

Note: the author enjoys nothing more than a good, well-reasoned debate.

Cheers.

Oh, if anyone is wondering, the book I’m speaking of is Bad Behaviour by Sheila O’ Flannagan. I’m cringing as I write this title. I need to do some more thinking about what can only be described as this bad attitude, of mine…

Being a Book Reviewer with Reviews Conspicuously Absent

I am astonished at myself. I created this blog to review books, nothing more and nothing less. Yet, over the past few weeks I’m surprisingly finding it increasingly difficult to review the books I read. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, I’ve been increasingly reading books of a genre that escapes description due to its sheer complexity. It’s like, when someone asks me what the book is about, I say, “It’s about this man, and he does things, I guess…” I feel like it isn’t what the book is about that makes it so fantastic, but the way it’s been narrated and put together. Take High Fidelity, for example;  it’s about a 35-year-old record store owner who splits up with his long-term girlfriend. I told my friend this and she asked me why I’m reading such depressing books! But the book isn’t  depressing at all, it’s funny and clever and gripping with such simple yet wonderful insights that one can’t help loving it. It’s just so…real. And the music! I want to listen to every single song mentioned in this book. And it made me feel like signing up for singing lessons despite having sub-zero musical talent. I don ‘t know why. I was just so excited about music and everything to do with it after reading it.  How would I review it, though? I don’t know! Is it about relationships? Is it about music? Does it teach any valuable life lessons? The answer is both yes and no to all these questions. It just tells a story, and does it well. The rest is up to the reader.

Also, I am against spoilers.  I can’t do a review if it gives the plot away. So I usually make up for it by simply describing how a book made me feel, and this works pretty well for me.  Except, most of the books I’ve been reading have given me the same feeling of excitement and exhilaration; a feeling of something having changed within me after reading the book and a deep desire to keep writing myself. This is great for me, of course, but it’s absurd for my reviews because people would think I’ve gone nuts if I wrote this in every review I write. It would also become a tad repetitive. I don’t know the reason for this. It might have to do with the authors I’m reading or it might have to do with the fact that I’ve begun to read again after nearly a year and I’m particularly thrilled by this. The book review part of my blog (the supposed main part) is suffering greatly as a result.

On the other hand, I’ve been itching to write and I’ve been going around confessing personal things on my blog, which is completely uncharacteristic of me. Surprisingly, people have found this interesting and I’ve gotten a lot of appreciative comments from friends, family and family of friends, as well as strangers. I’ve also gotten a number of followers which is immensely surprising to me, because I was convinced, and still am  a little, that blogging is the equivalent of setting letters in a bottle into the ocean.  I’m immensely grateful to all my followers and the little orange plus on the right of the webpage, which sends a little shiver of glee through me every time. I’m not sure but I think that’s what inspiration feels like. 🙂

Keep reading and writing everyone, it makes being alive feel like a worthy endeavour. 🙂 Cheers.

Being a Lousy Law Student

This post is more for me than it is for anyone else. It might not even make sense to others. But that’s okay. It might seem even comical to those people who believe apathy is fashionable.

I didn’t know this could happen either, trust me. I believed that passion can only be felt for the arts, not for something as mundane as the law. I then proceeded to prove myself spectacularly, comically wrong.

Let me explain.

I have been through the wars, and for the first time, it has made me want to write, rather than hide and cringe every time I see my metaphorically dusty blog.

I don’t know how many of you have read my posts closely enough to know this, but day-dreamy little Sindhu, with her eyes glazed over, and her nose in a book, has a misguided dream of being a lawyer. I’m 3/5ths there presently, and I’m constantly bloody afraid that I’m going to be terrible at it: I’m definitely a terrible law student.

Law school sometimes goes out of its way to prove me right, constantly hitting me in the face with bad grades and several other humiliating failures, like it did yesterday for the umpteenth time. I don’t want to lie; I cried. For hours. I’m tearing up again now.

But at the end of the day – and yes, I absolutely accept that this makes me batshit crazy – I still love it. I love law. I also love law school. I don’t know if this makes me very brave or very stupid. What do you think?

Okay, thank you for that chorus of “stupid”! I have my reasons, you know! You really should ask.

Firstly, I’m hoping that being a terrible law student won’t necessarily translate into being a terrible lawyer. I’m not daft. I remember things I’ve learnt, for the most part. I can analyse and such.  I’ve gotten compliments too, about my lawyerly talents, even if they have been “few and far between”, so to speak.

Besides, although I have done badly in my examinations, I haven’t failed or anything. (Yes, I’m grasping at straws here.) That’s good. Right?

I came to law school with starry eyes and lofty ideals, and that girl isn’t lost yet. I’m hoping that I can still make a difference, provided of course, that those people who are already making a difference let me help them make a difference. (In other words, hire me, NGO’s. This is an awesome cover letter!)

Most importantly, I really REALLY love studying law. It excites me in a way that previously, only fiction could. When I do legal writing, even though I know I’m not good at it, I don’t care about other writing anymore.  Some articles about the plight of the economically-backward make me cry with a passion and fill me with fury of a kind that I previously only experienced when Dobby died, and I want to be part of the revolution to fix their plight.

My love of fiction was unequalled and now law comes a close second. I can’t give it a better testimony than that.

I want to quit trying to be a lawyer. The thought has crossed my mind plenty of times. I don’t think I can, though because law is the thing that keeps me sane, even though it doesn’t seem that way right now.

I may only be mediocre at best, but that’s okay. I can always marry a rich guy. 😀 I’m only kidding. I can always live in a smaller house, buy fewer clothes and shoes (Yes, but just as many books) and be a lousy but happy lawyer. I can, no?

I want to whine that my talents are unrecognized, that the grading system is unfair and that the entire education system needs an overhaul. All of these things might even be true. Maybe I will be the person advocating for such concrete changes tomorrow. One never knows.

However, the thing that I needed to realize – and the thing that many others in my place need to realize – the thing that a wise but generally annoying friend of mine helped me realize is that it’ll all be okay. I’m doing what I love. I know what I want to do in the future. And working towards it will give me more happiness that achieving it ever could.

cliched ending>

But you know what? If the ending isn’t happy, I can’t write about it. Or even talk about it. That’s just how I am. At least when it comes to my own life.

Bear in mind, happy endings don’t occur when good things happen. Happy endings occur when people feel happy. Ushoo. So much wisdom. I overwhelm myself with my brilliance.

Let’s move on now before I end up converting this blog post into a bloody self-help book.

 

Woes of a College Student aka Why I Need to Make Use of the Kindle My Dad Gifted Me

I live in a hostel room that is, for real, 7feet by 7feet in area. I’ve seen closets that are bigger. And it is filthy. Now, I by no means am trying to shift blame because I truly am one of nature’s messy persons. It is ridiculous that people like me haven’t died out ages ago from living in squalor and getting diseases. It’s one of the failures of evolution, I suppose.

Nonetheless, here I am, alive, kicking and a voracious reader to boot. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, (and future college-goers everywhere need to remember this lesson) it’s a terrible idea to try and fit close to a hundred books (not including my academic books) into such a tiny space!

My home, with my big room is itself currently overflowing with books, with me literally having to keep some books on the floor, and on my bed, and on a chair, etc. There are books on a little makeshift shelf in the bathroom.

In fact, I’m almost thankful to those imbeciles who borrow and don’t return my books because the vacuum left by those books gets filled up in no time.

In other words, I am Sindhu Rao and I have a problem.

Much like the Earth, and – dare I say it – on what is likely a larger scale, I am facing an over-population problem. Especially in my aforementioned tiny room. I seriously considered throwing out some of my clothes to make space for my books. I also considered throwing away my bed, but that’s stupid because then, there wouldn’t be any space for the books under my bed.

Therefore, the time has come. I resisted it greatly but I must cave. The kindle my dad gave me a year ago is all of 7 inches long and it is slim and lightweight.

I began to warm up to the idea of using it when I was able to read The Goblet of Fire in an atrociously dull class without being observed. It was easy. Instead of a bulky paperback, I was reading it on a tiny Kindle. It was magical.

Well, I have finally decided to take the leap. I will dust off the poor neglected Kindle once I get home today and connect it to my WiFi and then – we will see. Will it be the beginning of a long-overdue love affair or will my resolve fizzle out? Only time will tell. (Dramatics aside though, I haven’t much choice if I want to keep reading.) I take solace in Stephen Fry’s words of wisdom: “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.”

 

To Want Music

I hate legal writing. Why does there have to be so much research? Why do there need to be FOOTNOTES? Why do I have to sound important and mature and not colloquial when I’m none of those things? WHY? I’ve gotten into this habit while writing essays of not writing them until the last minute, citing inspiration as an excuse. Of course, the only inspiration I really get closer to the deadline is the deadline itself. Yet, I cannot write until the deadline is close.

This works for college, of course, but I’m doing an internship and I have to make a presentation and give a long reference handout to all my presentees and I’ve made the presentation and done adequate research to begin the handout which has to be at least 10 pages long. And I cannot bring myself to go beyond the first three pages; probably because it’s only due Monday, a whole week from today.

However, this isn’t working. I have to sit at this desk for the next four and a half hours, the way I have been doing for the past two hours and do nothing except furtively hunt for websites that are deceptively plain and glean as much entertainment out of them as possible.

I’m just sitting here and wondering how to simultaneously fix this little procrastination problem as well as my boredom. I came across this post about music while writing and I have to admit, that’s worked for me in the past. (http://wantoncreation.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/do-you-listen-to-music-while-writing/)I have my iPod with me but I don’t know the etiquette of law firms and don’t know if it’s okay for an intern to plug in and cut out the world when I’m actually supposed to be jumping at the beck and call of the lawyers. Have you noticed how rules and etiquette and decorum and all those things often reduce productivity? I’m angry now. I want my music.

Four more hours… God help me.

Profession of Faith and Shameful Confessions

Reading is my religion. It’s true. I’m absolutely devoted to it, it’s on my mind all the time, and I have a fanatic hatred of all other religions and an equally fanatic need to convert all non-readers. You see?

However, after the past three months, I’m going to go to reader hell.  I’m a terrible blogger, always have been. I’ve begun and abandoned countless blogs without any sense of shame whatsoever. What shames me about these past three months is how terrible a reader I’ve been. I barely read, and when I did, it was chick-lit. Chick-lit! I was depressed after a semester than was epic in its awfulness, and I slept a lot and walked around like a zombie on cold medication. I am not going to count the books I read during this period because frankly, they were appalling. It’s also because I got nothing from them except “DON’T be a lawyer. It’s an awful life.”(Undomestic Goddess), “Family screws you over, and so do friends: only your dead ancestors will always be there for you.”(Twenties Girl) and “Be an irresponsible kook or that super-mature hot guy won’t notice you and fall for you.”(Some Shopaholic thingy-I can’t tell them apart, really.)

It all started with a fateful day in mid-February where a little adventure left me with a torn ligament in the ankle and some type of brain damage as well, it would seem. My brain has been hazy and buzzing annoyingly ever since and it’s only just beginning to clear.

I will summarize my activities in these three months as well as my hazy, doped memories let me. (I must clarify at this point, that “doped” only refers to a state of mind and did not involve any sort of consumption of narcotics or other controlled substances. I promise, mommy. )

(I read Making History by Stephen Fry in January by the way. I’m yet to review that. I must state right now, in case I die an untimely death and my God and other fellow readers in reader hell hold it against me forever that I didn’t give this book a well-deserved testimony.IT WAS BRILLIANT. Completely hilarious.)

I read one decent book called Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples. It made me think further about converting to Islam. I have been toying with the idea for some time. Yes, this is despite not having a Muslim boyfriend. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Jihad) It was an accurate picture of the pitiable state of Afghanistan and Pakistan and their people due to the Taliban. (A poignant subject decently portrayed.) There wasn’t much character development though, and all the people seem to just be metaphors of the struggling populace and not characters unto themselves. I don’t know if you know what I mean. Also, the ending was meant to be touching but it mostly just alarmed me.

While we’re on the topic, I also read Kite Runner, which made me hate, detest, love and pity the protagonist, all at once. I liked Hassan too. The Taliban are only in the backdrop of the main story but you can still feel their shudder-inducing presence. It didn’t make me cry as much as A Thousand Splendid Suns but I did. I cried. It doesn’t hurt you as much but it does and it makes you think of a lot of things. There are so many things to take away from this book. Read it.

I read The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. It’s a lovely book, albeit with a disturbing portrayal of paedophilia. I really liked it. You won’t regret reading it. The protagonist reminded me of a friend of mine for a few reasons. I won’t name her. Also, I want to be a lawyer attending trials like the ones in the book. It would torture me, but I still want to.

I started and didn’t finish Name of the Rose but I will get back to it. I went on a near-psychotic Enid Blyton re-reading phase. I finished about 30 of those in 3 days. Then I started by chick-lit spree, like I said, and I read about 20 of those. Following that, I read Memory Keeper’s Daughter which couldn’t hold a torch to Kim Edwards’ other book, Lake of Dreams, which is pretty decent. It basically put together a bunch of the most irrational characters and made a story about their irrationality.

Then I reread a lot. My brain just stopped working. My exam results, when they come out, will vouch for me on this.

Then I came home after my semester ended. I didn’t read some more. I went out and bought a bunch of books anyway, because, hey! I’m cool like that! I firmly believe that the purchase of books is a distinct activity with therapeutic qualities and is entirely unconnected to the actual reading of those books. That’s another fun thing that can be done with books. The list is as follows.

  1. Gazing at bookshelves
  2. Smelling new books
  3. Buying new books
  4. Imagining being a character in a book
  5. Actually reading
  6. Talking about good books
  7. Bitching about the movies based on the books
  8. Adding books to a long wish list
  9. Going on websites about the authors
  10. And of course, blogging about the books

I began to read Dracula but it irritated me. I read two new Wodehouse books, which I swear by as anti-depressants even though a certain close friend of mine appears to abhor him.(-Coughladybugcough-) They were Galahad at Blandings and Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin. I didn’t like the second one too much.

Then, I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. What a book! I really loved it. It’s a guide on writing and so funny and clever and honest. I don’t know if I would read her other books, though. I think not. They seem to target specific audiences and would only appeal to that particular sub-group. Well, so does this one, I suppose, but I happen to be a member of this particular audience. Well, I’m glad that I am, because I would have missed out on some of that charm, otherwise, and that would honestly have been an absolute shame. It’s different from the other books I love because it de-hodgepodged my jelly brain and I loved it anyway. Look, it’s gotten me writing already and I only read it yesterday!

I am now reading Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Wish me luck, okay? Let’s hope I stick with it.

I feel like I’m missing out on things. If my PTSD-fied brain permits, I will tell you more as I remember.