Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This book is a beautiful narration of the year-long events that occur in a family, starting on the special day of Christmas. The family has six members– A doting mother, Marmee, four loving daughters, each honored for their uniqueness and a house help, Hannah who stands like a strong pillar of support.

The father serves in the army, but his presence is felt in every chapter through his thoughtful letters. His words inspire the girls to do better for themselves and the house. Every single time when they read or re-read his wise words, the family is saddened. And every single time, they consciously bring themselves back to the present moment with cheer and poise.  

Mommy Marmee defines their simple family goal – ‘Hard work and perseverance help you lead a life free from weak thoughts, malice and anxiety.’ Both the parents keep guiding the girls to engage in the mundane without fretting, without giving up.

Meg, the oldest is a governess, Jo is a caretaker to old Aunt March, Beth is adept at house making and playing piano and Amy the youngest is a learner, willing to help. What is commendable is that the author Louisa May Alcott has maintained the distinctness in the characters despite the continuous intertwinement of their lives and constant compulsory engagement with each other.

Every chapter leaves the reader with a simple thought, that inspires and is easy to follow. It depicts the joy in serving and pushes the idea of finding contentment in less. Comfort zones are caressed and family values are protected. Yes, all these ideas sound obsolete but they offer peace and stability to a confused mind.

The language is archaic and so is the plot, but it draws the reader into a world which is differently resourceful. Unlike the ideas in many other books that require both thought and effort to practice, Little Women gives you easy goals, on which you can work upon from this moment itself.

I would like to conclude in a literary style – On days you feel lost in the world of endless pursuits, the book holds you like an anchor in the swaying sea. On days when you are too tired working, the book pacifies like an oasis in the parched desert. And on days when your self -esteem is low, it brings you face to face with how simplicity lies at the center of your soul.

There are many revised and edited versions of the book available in the market and seven films/shows have been produced as an adaptation of the book, the most recent one being released in 2022. The story is indeed timelessly true.


Series Review – Maid

I recently finished watching a series by the name ‘Maid’ on Netflix. It’s about the intriguing journey of Alexandra (played by Margaret Qualley) from a disoriented young mommy to a confident mother to three year old Maddy. The husband/father Sean (played by Nick Robinson) is a bartender, is good looking and loves Alex – but when under the influence of alcohol loses control. 

One gets mistaken in the initial few episodes to think of him as a physical abuser but soon it dawns, that it was never physical but always mental. His behavioural extremities shook Alex’s faith in him as a reliable partner.

The series kicks off with Alex leaving with her child in the wee hours of the morning with a meagre $18 in her pocket. From here on it’s a long road with sharp curves as Alex struggles to become an independent woman. With no qualifications and zero support system, she is out in the open with her tender baby to make a living for both of them.

Her parents are divorced, father an abusive alcoholic and mother who is undiagnosed bipolar. The director has given many shades to every character almost every shade being gravely dark. If all is grave, what keeps a viewer glued? It’s Alex’s hope for life, her faith in self, her perseverance to break the cage, her dream to fly.

Do dreams need a degree? The answer is no. She was a passionate writer adept at writing stories of grit and truth. This one skill proves enough to give wings to her mind – which lets her fly miles away. Her passion for writing keeps her soul alive. She envisions doing a writing course at Missoula with the help of a scholarship. A distant dream, but one that gave her peace in hard times.

To meet her day to day expenses she opts for what she is good at – house cleaning that requires minimum education and embarks on a hazy road to financial independence. Her day is long involving hours of travel, irritably dirty toilets and a cold world but her poise inspires throughout. As she reached the end of the day full of sweat and stink, she finds solace in scribbling voraciously in her notepad about her experiences in every new home that she went to clean – and mind you, a maid indeed knows a lot.

A realistic social situation vividly highlighted in the series is that a maid is always there but the owner doesn’t regard her presence as significant leading them to     lower their guards and coming out all exposed – because after all who cares, she is just a maid. Alex’s random notes turned out to be a masterpiece that eventually let her win the once lost scholarship.

During this process she had a weak moment when she goes back to Sean. Quite a few episodes are dedicated to this part of the story. That’s a point when everyone watching the series would be torn in two – one saying yes, he deserves to get a chance courtesy his truthful appearance of sobering for Alex’s sake. While the other side saying, ‘No, no please don’t fall into the trap. Don’t go back.’ Unfortunately the latter seems wise as she loses her freedom, slowly, steadily, once again becoming a victim of emotional abuse.

What next? She rebounds – and this time with full awareness. With government aid, a student loan and a spree of cleaning jobs she makes a solid plan. One of her loyal clients Regina, a rich black woman with a complicated life helps Alex get a good lawyer and she manages to win back full custody of Maddy from Sean. One major reason behind this also being Sean going on a self -realization trip that led him to accept that he will never be able to raise Maddy better than Alex. 

There are many intricate characters in the series but their roles are so neatly defined that they hold a short but impressive span in the series. 

What is surprising is that I am a homemaker, mother to two beautiful kids and a freelance content writer – I lead a life of complete emotional and financial security. I could not gauge why and how could I connect so much with Alexandra. We don’t have any life situation in common, yet I partially felt her pain, also her elation. Probably a strong reason is that hers was not only a story of escape but one of self- discovery. 

Alex’s wishful eyes had a vision and as she patiently manoeuvred, I felt as if I am about to reach my state of ultimate freedom. Freedom from dependence in any form – that allows you to reach your optimum potential.

Even as we live a life of abundance that quest to optimize burns inside each one of us. With titles and properties, with assets and gadgets, there is still some emptiness and that vacuum demands self -discovery.  The series has a woman as the central character but this inner turmoil is also experienced by men.

The way out is to understand what makes you weak? Make a systematic plan to convert the weakness into strength. What binds you the most is your own inhibitions, and the only way to let go is to attempt genuinely and consistently.  And that’s the message that I took from the series. 

Kudos to Molly Smith Metzler for creating this beautiful American drama series that comes real close to the realities of life. The series is inspired by Stephanie Land‘s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. A viewer’s delightwith important life lessons to learn.

The Richest Man in Babylon – Review

The Richest Man in Babylon as the title suggests is setup in and around the prosperous town of Babylon of the golden era situated by the banks of river Euphrates. What was unique about this town was the riches that lied within its vast walls. The town has been beautifully described as a place that drew the attention and attraction of traders and merchants for the thriving business opportunities that lay there.

This book takes us to the ancient era of antiques and barter where people valued their gold, silver and copper similar to how we value our currency today. It has fables of slaves and masters where labor is presented as a commodity. It is thin as if a child’s read but has deep financial concepts covered within. The book runs like a story with fictional characters all of who belong to the conventional Arabic culture.

It looks like a tale straight from Arabian Nights but it is only after you are half way through you see the intertwined economical wisdom and by the end of the book it reads completely as a recommended report by some consulting firm (but narrated creatively thereby sparking the reader’s interest)

What is narrated in the book is something that we already know – about how to make money, how to save money and how to multiply money. But what we are reminded of is that all of it requires sincere hard work and adequate planning which is not as complicated as we make it to be. 

It vividly narrates ways to ‘Cure a lean purse’ and also sheds light on lending, borrowing, gaining and losing. Every idea is conveyed by way of a story of a merchant or a baker or a landlord or a moneylender. As these different characters interact, they spill the simple secrets of making and keeping what is the most desired -‘Gold aka money.’

Wise anecdotes throughout the book also discuss missed opportunities, right and wrong means to increase the flow of money. The best part is the length which is short and the message precise.

A delightful read though quite a bit of text is presented in its archaic form with words like thou, giveth, thee but please do not regard it as a put off as in the flow of the tale, one can easily comprehend and make sense out of the language despite its Shakespearean feel.

The author George Samuel Clason started by publishing pamphlets on financial handling and success in the form of a Babylonian parable way back in 1926. It was widely distributed by financial institutions among their customers and employees. One of the most famous ones came to be ‘The Richest man in Babylon’.

The author makes everything appear so lucid for instance controlling expenditures is easier said than done but one cannot defy its role in building financial strength. Whenever he mentions this fact, he makes it a point to assert that there is a difference between control and misery which one should keep in mind before pursuing this path.

My takeaway from this book is that the secret to changing our own fate lies in dedicated efforts and resolute practices which one should adopt to save and multiply money. After being perseverant for the desired time one will experience that the saved money that they invested in various ventures is working for them. Does it not sound ideal?

Heist Love

Money Heist on Netflix topped the charts for a long span. Lockdown gave us a chance to watch this exhaustively detailed series. The highs and lows, the straightly defined characters and an extraordinary show of intelligent heist leaves you baffled multiple times. Season 4 – Last episode got over and there was a void – I would have loved to see more of him – the mastermind – Sergio…. The wait till the next season looked a long one.

What part of us really connects to the negative, to the wrong doers? After all no matter how much the glorification, it was ultimately a clever crime – well planned, well executed. This question stayed in my sub conscious until I bumped into a random logic that perfectly defined my emotional assistance to Sergio. I found it in Shantaram, a bestseller by Gregory David Roberts (my current read). In this book an honorable mafia don Khader Bhai states that any crime has two elements – the sin element which is defined by the way it ruins the souls of the victims and also by way of who are the victims. The other element is the crime part that is defined by how, where and when it is committed. I know it is complex but an easier way to explain is in crimes like prostitution and child trafficking the sin element is way to high which fills your heart with extreme hatred towards the convicts.

On the other hand robbery, currency black marketing has a stronger crime element that largely leaves one concerned and fearsome about where the society is heading. In Money Heist, Sergio and team take charge of a mint where they mint their own money. He repeatedly says, “I am not stealing anyone’s money, I am putting more money into the system.” No oppression, no intentional violence, no mala fides which bought the sin element to a minimal low.

 That is where I as a commoner connected with the heist, which is the reason, I felt the way I felt for all the characters. The wonders of finding a direct link between two masterpieces, one in prose and the other on screen once again justifies the idea – the world is full of ideas that come to you in various forms, it’s up to you how much you absorb, how much you relate.

Wise and Otherwise – By Sudha Murthy

Wise and Otherwise by Sudha Murthy is a collection of interesting anecdotes each with profound life lessons. It is a personal account of the author herself while she travelled through our country – The Great India – A land of values and disparities. The title captures the contrast too – with two opposite words – Wise and Otherwise!!

There are many people about whom she has written in her book – a thoughtful old village man, a secretary, a nurse, a bridegroom, a sales manager, a local vendor. All of them have crossed her path as a part of her social work (which she carries out through her company Infosys Foundation) or coincidentally. What is beautiful is the chord that she could strike with each person/character and situation!! The way, in which she has put the commonness in perspective, leaves the readers with a message at the end of every story.

All the stories are relatable and on some random day, the message might directly apply to you while you are at home or in office. The titles of each story are intelligently worded, because at the end of every story I went back to the title to correlate and find the essence. A few interesting ones are –  ‘Salaam Namaste’, ‘The IT Divide’, ‘Bonded by Bisleri’….

Quite a few narratives have a predictable and dramatic end as if straight from Bollywood, and many others have a surprising turn towards the conclusion. This book is good for some casual mindful reading. The language is simple and the length of the anecdotes is short, so one can easily flip a few pages while waiting in traffic. The cover page carries a line ‘A Salute to life’ – it indeed is through its realness and plainness.

I would like to call it India’s ‘Chicken Soup’……