Sunday, July 28, 2013

Down the memory lane

How often I repent for not having preserved my scribbles from childhood!! I did not have great organisational skills as a kid (and neither do I currently) which resulted in the lost pages of my childhood artistry. But my current fellowship with Teach For India is letting me bring back all the lovely memories of childhood dreams. I sneaked into reading many a wonderful books that I bought for my kids. The first set of books I bought them included "Once Upon a Time", "Arabian Nights" and "Akbar and Birbal" series. The pictures in one of the "Akbar and Birbal" books took me back to my school days when I was 11. I had drawn and colored a scene where Akbar the great does an act of great foolishness. Ah! how lovely the kids' books are.

I read 15 odd story books in 3 hours without taking a break. No wonder my kids are mad behind reading stories with pictures. I was thrilled to read stories in Indian context. I was never a good reader in my childhood and now is the time I'm compensating for it. If I did not have the responsibility of planning my teaching hours, I would spend countless hours copying all the pictures in those books.

Now coming to the review of these books, I must say they are a compulsory read for anybody (adults included). For the kids, the illustrations make the books very inviting and the simple language is suitable for kids with a reading level of upto 5th grade. The story setting and characters are something kids can relate to very easily. There is an introduction to a lot of new professions and general vocabulary which the kids are in dire need of. What elders struggle to teach kids through countless lessons and dull activities, these books teach them tirelessly. Kids are introduced to an array of bad behaviours and suitable punishments. What bad things elders try to generally hide from kids are put forth in a very delicate balance so that the kids are aware of those things. The books are filled with fairies, thieves, idiots, kings and many such fantasies, which kids are sold for. And above all these books are fun!!

It is important for elders (read parents and teachers) to read these books before the kids and subtly relate their behavior to the morals of the story.

The best part: The pictures are so easy to copy down and color.

“There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” 
― J.K. Rowling

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: Lean In

Lean in

Success is making the best choices we can and accepting them
-         - Sheryl Sandberg

A new trend common these days is bracketing behaviour as feminist and non-feminist. One cannot speak of gender equality without falling into either of these classifications. And when a book comes out that directly attacks the sensitive area of “women empowerment” it is bound to be branded sexist/feminist and put into a shelf screaming out the same. After Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO of Facebook gave out a stately TED talk that has been viewed more than 2 million times, she set out to write a book on the same lines.

In a world that has less than 4% of women in the leadership positions of fortune 500 companies, Sheryl posits that we need more women at the top to ensure the empowerment of women and for this purpose she has chalked out various guidelines and suggestions for both men and women. I believe it cannot be called a manifesto per se, but can serve as a wonderful insight into the thought process of a successful woman.

Sheryl has been openly bashed for being brave and calling out for measures to bridge the gender inequality. Whenever a successful (or in most cases slightly successful) man comes up with a self-help book he is much lauded for his willingness to help the world. When a successful woman genuinely tries to pull other women ahead with her, what is the need to term her efforts as sexist and pretentious? Although the book may not be considered a literary brilliance, I stand by Sheryl’s philosophy mentioned in the book of getting more women at the top.

Now reflecting on the contents of the book, I would say be your own judge and take only those suggestions that are apt for your socio-economic conditions. Sheryl quotes brilliant anecdotes and often comes across as a warm and vulnerable person. Reading the book is thrilling for one it has life snippets of famous and powerful people and second it convincingly drives home the fact that every other person in the world has familial and careerist problems. Sheryl often supports her claims through statistics, research studies and personal experience.

Sheryl tells the readers how she and many other top notch working women handle family and work. I loved it when she made a point how work-life balance is itself a funny concept and how one cannot separate work from life. If you treat your work as a separate entity apart from your life then probably you are not working in a job you love. Sheryl assumes a type of problem-solving approach most leaders use - that of sharing her experience during problematic times. This makes the book easily readable and to attract the connectivity with the reader.

One thing that could be better in the book is the sloppy transition to universal sentiments. Sheryl usually talks about a certain approach throughout a chapter and then suddenly at the end of the chapter she declares that she believes in the age-old wisdom and the alternate approach is also equally right. This incoherent transition has rendered the ending of many chapters unimpressive.

I recommend this book to those who have the habit of catching up with the latest sensations of the literary world and to those who love the typical Harvard alums way of writing a persuasive book (FYI: Sheryl is a Harvard alumna). This book having less than 200 pages is a breezy read and has the contribution and time of many talented persons as is evident from the acknowledgement section. Career loving parents (read working moms in popular lingo) should definitely try this out.