Book Review- 4 Pillars of Abundant Life by Ashok Wahi

Every tomorrow will come as today

Ashok Wahi

If I hadn’t  known Ashok Wahi, from WordPress, I would have missed reading ‘ 4  Pillars of Abundant Life’, at least for a long time, till I would happen to come across a review written by someone somewhere.

The reason being, I have read many Self help books that reveal the secrets of happiness and success. The secrets were always the same, but dressed up in different attires, depending on the author’s artistry with words.

Most of the time, I felt that they were giving advices from lives they never lived, even when they were narrating stories.

This is what places ‘4 Pillars of Abundant Life’ in a different space. As you turn the pages, you will feel all that Ashokji  experienced so as to finally derive at the profound wisdom, that he is sharing with the readers.

I can no more address him as Ashok, though he is a dear friend,  unseen, and a benign presence in wordpress space, who has been constantly encouraging new writers with his reflections. It would be disrespectful, now that I have met the sagely version of him who shared this deep wisdom with me as a reader.

I believed that I was privy to almost every secret of happiness and success. But obviously there are more.

I did not know why my personal life and the life of my family had been suddenly moving towards the lane of happiness and success than ever before, in the past year, when most of the world was suffering with the pandemic and loss of job.

I did too. I had been teaching for 21 years and I loved what I was doing. I was contented with the lives I was transforming, both of students and my team of teachers.  Several reasons compounded my unavoidable exit from a role that I loved playing.

Then I started writing and I felt happier. It was unbelievable. How can I be happier by not doing something that made me happy for the past 21 years?

The happier I became, the more grateful I felt and success started finding its way into my family. 

Now with the insight I gained from this book, I know that the selective environment of the corporate that I was working with, was toxic and had been stealing my happiness even though my ever positive mind led me into believing that I was happy.

A grateful person is always happy, and a happy person is always successful

Ashok Wahi

All along the way, you will find Ashokji’s wisdom pinned for you on little grey boards.

I already have highlighted a bunch of my favourite quotes from the book.

What you leave behind was never yours. What you spent, you had, and what you gave away goes with you.

Ashok Wahi

Once we understand enough is enough, we realize that we have more than enough. That is abundance

Ashok Wahi

Ashokji does not stretch what he wants to say beyond enough. You can read it at one go. But I suggest you do as I did. Circle around one pillar a day. Pause to ponder over the insight that is used in their magnificent architecture. Read each inscription carefully and commit them to your memory, so that you can summon them to be beacons to guide your soul when in doubt.

If you have spent World Happiness day, not so happily, you should read this book.

Kinsey, Look What You Made Me Do !!!

Some people conquer your life, like the first strains of a hit song that has become an earworm.

Others are like match heads in monsoon. They take some time to warm up and then bursts into a sudden flame bringing light and fervour into your life.

It goes true, even for characters from books.

When I read ‘A is for Alibi’ by Sue Grafton, months ago, Kinsey Millhone did not occupy one of the top 5 slots in the list of my favourite sleuths. She was like a slightly damp match stick that I was contemplating whether to throw away or give a try.

Kinsey has no sense of fashion.

She trims her hair with nail scissors and drives decrepit cars.

She lives in a garage apartment, and owns few blue jeans, turtle necks and a single all purpose black dress made of a miracle fabric that she wears for weddings, funerals and parties.

She is rough around the edges and a weak human. She gets emotionally involved with her cases and lies when it suits her investigation. She also has no qualms in admitting her fears.

She does not have any qualities of the sleuths that I worship.

Then I took my chance and read ‘B is for Burglar’ and ‘C is for Corpse’ .

Today I slathered generous amounts of crunchy peanut butter on my bread and then arranged slices of pickled jalapenos over it. I also bought Chardonnay, which I had found too citrusy earlier.

Kinsey fans would know, that is how she eats her sandwich; with dill pickle and crunchy peanut butter and Chardonnay is her preferred drink. Some may call it a weird match, but that’s what Kinsey made me do!!!!

I let her add a sandwich to my all time favourite menu risking my reputation from a great cook to someone of questionable taste. She made me rethink my choice of white wine. Kinsey, what have you done to me ?

Drawing courtesy: caramelcatkin

I am on ‘N is for Noose’ and has 11 more to go in the Alphabet series and Kinsey has already made adjustments in my choice of food and drink.

I don’t know if any of you get swayed by fictional characters. It does happen with me. Some of them make slight alterations in my patterns and preferences. Last time it happened was when I read the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lee Child.

With Kinsey, it is not just about the hues and strokes which Grafton has used to paint her portrait.

I also love the wordplay which Grafton indulges in, to describe every minutae which might not even matter. It is sheer poetry and I love it. I find myself highlighting sentences, just to go back and relish them all over again.

Sue Grafton couldn’t complete the series, as she passed away before she could work on the alphabet Z.

Here are Kinsey’s own words in the early pages of N Is for Noose:

So there I was barreling down the highway in search of employment and not at all fussy about what kind of work I’d take. I wanted distraction. I wanted some money, escape, anything to keep my mind off the subject of Robert Deitz. I’m not good at good-byes. I’ve suffered way too many in my day and I don’t like the sensation. On the other hand, I’m not that good at relationships. Get close to someone and the next thing you know, you’ve given them the power to wound, betray, irritate, abandon you, or bore you senseless. My general policy is to keep my distance, thus avoiding a lot of unruly emotion. In psychiatric circles, there are names for people like me.”

So there she is, raw and flawed and vulnerable, a tough cookie who exists in the periphery of the society , yet in a niche carved out in the hearts of every fan.

Why I Love Rick Riordan.

Trials of Apollo- the Tower of Nero was my weekend read.

Five years and five quests later, Lester Papadopoulos has now finally reclaimed his glorious godly form as Apollo.

Rick Riordan might have had middle schoolers in mind when he created his Percy Verse. But according to me, his books are ageless just like the Harry Potter series.

There is no genre, that I don’t read. That includes YA and Children’s Books. Probably because of the reason that my reading options, as a child were limited. And also when I buy books for my children, I definitely want to know what they have just read.

As a child, I grew up reading books by Uncle Pai’s Paico Publications. I had a large collection of Amar Chithra Katha which told stories from Indian Mythology through graphic novels. My early introduction to world classics was again through Paico Classics. Those abridged versions generated interest in collecting classics, reading of which my children find quite boring. The illustrations in those Classic graphic novels were the ones that I first copied in my drawing book. Those books became the favourite universe for an introverted me. I held onto that collection till my post-graduation and I do not know what came of it. Losing them is one of the few regrets that I have.

My children, my younger one particularly, love mythology and fantasy genres. I am partial towards Rick Riordan’s mythological series due to so many reasons.

1) My first reason is his unique style of writing. It is funny and Rick was the first writer who has influenced my elder son’s writing style. His earlier blogs and stories had puns which made me chuckle and suppress giggles. Pursuing journalism has transformed his style of writing, but I still hang on to the dream that someday he would come up with a script for a movie that would give Disney a run for their money with its funs and puns.

2) Rick’s characters are raw and real. Whether it is describing their appearance or their quirks, he puts lots of detail into the narration which endears the characters to the readers.

3) The leitmotif of all his books is the fact that it is okay to be different. Whether you are dyslexic or gay or with pimples and zits you can achieve great things and you are loved.

4) His books have protagonists of all ethnicities. It started off with a dyslexic Percy as the hero. Fifteen books down the series, its characters are a cut above the rest.

5) His books emphasize teamwork and second chances. It punctuates the fact that you are not as bad as your worst mistake and there is always a way for redemption.

6) Rick celebrates family and its bonds. He has characters from broken families who have risen above their insecurities and found love and a family among friends.

7) Even if there is a hero, all characters are memorable and unique and everyone has their moments of glory. 8) I love watching my son pouring over the pages and his smiles, chortles, and snickers and the sighs while he is in Rick’s universe. For a person who loved only Wimpy Kids, it was Rick’s books who triggered my younger one’s journey into mythology and fantasy.

8) I love watching my son pouring over the pages and his smiles, chortles, and snickers and the sighs while he is in Rick’s universe. For a person who loved only Wimpy Kids, it was Rick’s books who triggered my younger one’s journey into mythology and fantasy.

I guess being a teacher helped Rick understand the psyche of children better. In his own words.

As a middle school teacher, it was critical to me that all my students saw my classroom as a safe, supportive environment where they could be honored for who they were and express themselves without fear.

It’s essential to me that young readers find a variety of relatable, positive role models in my books. No child should be shamed or shunned for being different.

Rick Riordan

As of now, Rick has no plans for another series in Percy Verse. It would be a shame.

But the good news is, he is coming up with a standalone book which is Celtic –related.

Trying New Private Detectives.

I had been fiercely loyal to my detectives, all this time.

The creators of Hercule Poirot, Ms Marple, Sherlock Holmes, AXL Pendergast and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache made them so unique that every other detective I tried to acquaint with, did not move ahead of that first date.

Recently I tried a few more.

1. Lord Peter Wimsey By Dorothy. L Sayers

Lord’s Wimsey’s loyal fans please forgive me

Busman’s Holiday is the book which read. I loved the characterization of Lord Wimsey and Harriet vane. The wealthy British aristocrat, who quotes Shakespeare and other poets  and has Bunter as his “man” has a definite charm.  He is a brilliant sleuth and I would have loved and spent time enjoying the delectable banter between him and Harriet if it were in a drama, but not in a murder mystery.

The problem was, I had to wait till the sixth chapter for the murder to be discovered even though the absence of Mr Noakes , the victim, is hovering over as the shroud of mystery from the first chapter. After a point of time I got bored of the slow pace and somehow I managed to complete the book. 

2.  Kinsey Millhone by Sue Grafton

I started with A is for Alibi. Kinsey Millhone doesn’t conform to society’s expectations. She is a free spirit who isn’t concerned about her appearance at all. These characteristics about her are underlined in the very first book of alphabet murder series. She is a private investigator and operates alone without a side-kick. I loved her but the plot of the book was shaky. But I am still going to have a go at the remaining books too.

3. Isaiah Quintabe by Joe Ide

I read two books of Isaiah I.Q Quintabe.

I loved him in the first book titled IQ. He is from the hood and is a private investigator. Left on his own after his beloved older brother Marcus dies, Isaiah, an honour student with a supercharged brain , drops out of high school. He has inductive reasoning skills which is not as well developed as Holmes or Poirot. He has built his own Audi when he was working with TK in his scrap yard, has a baton and a self made pellet –gun as weapons. His character is painted in grey and he has a self proclaimed partner, Dodson whom Isaiah just tolerates in the book as their relation goes way back.

It was a gripping plot. So after the first book, I went ahead and read the fourth book in the series, Hi Five which was my big mistake. It bumped off a favourite character, Beaumont, in the beginning.

IQ has to deal with a complex character with multiple personality syndrome who is the only witness to murder. The plot was more gun-violence and white supremacy and involved more shoot-outs than crime-solving. I had started falling in love with Isaiah and this plot revealed him as giving in to his vulnerability , losing everything and running away from the hood.

I am not sure if I am going back to read book 2 and 3 in the series.

But I am planning to watch the Peter Wimsey series with Edward Petherbridge as Lord Wimsey just to see if could rekindle that initial spark of love which I felt for him after my first book.

Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot

I was extremely delighted when I read about my favourite detective being brought back from death by Sophie Hannah and after reading all the four books back to back, I am ready with the conclusion.

Yes, It is really him. I couldn’t feel much difference at all. He is as pompous and meticulous as always.

This time he has a very adorable side-kick from Scotland Yard. Edward Catchpool whose brain is being trained by Poirot and mid-way through their fourth case together, he is quite confident that the brain -training is somewhat effective.

All the four cases has the characteristics of a typical Poirot mystery. They are baffling as ever and only Poirot can link the seemingly improbable events for the final reveal.

He trains Catchpool to make lists with all the puzzling questions and along with Catchpool, I once again found myself frustrated being unable to decipher the findings that makes Poirot’s eyes turns green with excitement .

My great disappointment about all four books were the fact that, the motives weren’t strong enough. The psychological explanations offered by Poirot failed to convince me as compelling reasons to commit murder.

I relished the books just as any other Hercule Poirot mysteries, but was dissatisfied. The villains were not completely evil, but painted with shades of grey. It is like we arrive at the truth, yet this time the working of the criminal mind bordered to something that did not make much sense even after the world’s most brilliant detective explained it to us.

Just Mercy- A story of Justice and Redemption- By Bryan Stevenson

I just finished reading the latest edition of Just Mercy. Even though the underlying thought which Stevenson wishes to disseminate in his book is the potential of hope and mercy in redeeming racial injustice, I am left with shock, indignation, resentment and disgust by the very reminder that such cruel miscarriage of justice still exists.

I couldn’t help wondering about the root cause of racism and read many articles written about the same. Every time I read a narrative, I feel broken and I cannot imagine the extend of damage that has been left in the lives of the ones who were characters in this real life stories.

Even though India has its own version of injustice based on the caste and religious divides, I couldn’t find any compelling memoirs about the same by any Indian authors.

I fail to understand how one human being can consider another, inferior, just because he or she looks, talks and thinks differently?

How can one presume guilt without evidence and condemn without trial, just because one believes that all people of that skin colour are violent and is a threat to the community?

Stevenson’s book revolves around the biased conviction of Walter McMillian which happened in 1987. Stevenson’s legal firm first took up the cause of Walter McMillian, sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman. The state’s case had many inconsistencies and manufactured stories from witnesses who were threatened and colluded to do so.

The state disregarded accounts from many eyewitnesses who insisted they were with Walter at a church fundraiser. The legal system was determined to find someone to convict for this murder and decided Walter would be the ideal candidate because of his affair with a white woman.

The stories of poor black children sentenced to adult prisons where they were subjected to sexual assault and serving life sentences not always due to first degree murder, was appalling.

These children were of 13-14 year old and were juveniles who slipped into the path of crime because of their lack of maturity and judgement and their destitution.

Stevenson says, ” We do not live in a free society. We are all burdened by a history of racial inequality that’s created a kind of smog in the air.”

The facts remains that since prosecutors and police have legal immunity, they can do considerable harm to innocent citizens when they are on the hunt for justice.

Even though he speaks about hope, I couldn’t help thinking that the Justice System hasn’t changed in the least. That is what the decision of Jefferson County grand jury to not indict the officers of Law in the death of Breonna Taylor, by claiming that her boyfriend fired the first shot, even though the ballistics report could not determine if Taylor’s boyfriend shot an officer, makes me feel.

This is what millions of people like me all over the world recognized with horror, when we watched the video of George Floyd struggling to breathe while handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a police officer.

Racial injustice is not a curse entirely of The United States of America. But it is of every country that has a fraction of its population who see the colour of skin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and the position in the social ladder, when they look at a human being.

Racism is part of every nation in a myriad of colors and hues, and in forms which are not so easy to detect. Slavery and lynching never really ended; instead, they just evolved. Only the causes, assumptions and justifications for those actions have changed.