When Maya calls

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I went to the Star Mark bookshop to buy a gift for a friend of mine. I bought Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and after paying for it, I stood in a mini queue to get the book gift-wrapped. The guy standing before me was often turning around to keep an eye on his little girl who was about five or six years old. The queue moved a little and I moved forward and stood in that guy’s position. That little girl came back to me and tugged at my left hand and said, “Daaaddy, I want that booook.” I was pleasantly surprised at this sudden promotion, and patted that little girl’s head. She still didn’t look up to see that I wasn’t her dad. The guy before me turned around and gave me and his daughter a stern look.

“Maya, that is NOT your dad!” The guy huffed. “Your dad is here.”

The little girl looked up at me to see me smiling down at her and she quickly left my hand and ran to her daddy. I laughed out loud and startled a girl nearby who gave me a quizzical look.

The little girl’s name was Maya. It was kind of strange to know that Maya was pulling at me to carry out her wishes. We all are pulled by her in various directions in this life of ours, and only a couple of days back, I was telling a very close friend of mine that Life is Maya! I couldn’t help but notice this little coincidence. When was the last time I said that to anyone? I can’t remember. I don’t think I said that to anyone as far as I can remember.

Anyway, I don’t mind bending to Maya’s wishes if she is that little girl asking for a book. How can anyone say no to that?

I noticed that the father was actually buying a children’s book and I was curious to know if his daughter could read that.

“She reads those books?” I asked him.

“She doesn’t yet. I read those books to her,” he said with a smile.

“You should read out Enid Blyton books to her,” I suggested.

“Yeah, I am thinking of buying her these 5 O’ Clock tales sometime next year.”

“Yes that would be a good choice for her age. I don’t think she is ready for Famous Five yet,” I said.

“Yeah, Famous Five, Five Find-Outers, St.Clares’ — good memories those were,” the father started recollecting. “Cherry Tree farm, Willow tree series….”

“Green meadow family,” I added a book to his recollection.

“Yeah, Green meadow family,” he smiled at me. “It was nice bumping into you.”

“I am glad that we met too,” I said, grinning ear to ear to find a fellow Blyton fan.


The Mystery of the Hidden House

Ah, my Enid Blyton! How much have I missed you! After about three or four years, I’ve read an Enid Blyton book! For more than a week I was ill and bedridden and during the last few days of my recuperation I grew restless and pulled out an EB book from my bookshelf — The Mystery of the Hidden House, a Five Find-Outer’s Mystery! During the first few chapters, the plot moved at a snail pace, as is the case in many EB books, and I said to myself, ‘I used to enjoy all this, why is this appearing to be slow now?’ For a few frightful moments, I was afraid that I had grown out of Enid Blyton books. But thankfully towards the end, Enid came back strongly and showed me that she was still in charge! I guess I was a bit rusty from not reading her books in a long time. In fact, I haven’t read much fiction these past few years. The first time I read this book was about nine years ago. How time flies!

The Mystery of the Hidden House is one of the best of the 15 books in this series. This is the sixth book and EB introduces a major new character — Ern Goon! This is such a well-written, smashing book and rereading it after nine years reminded me how much I had enjoyed it when I first read it. In Chapter 14, page 96 (Mammoth publication), I found this Blyton gem and chuckled at it 🙂

‘Was there a boy?’ asked Bets. ‘A boy who would be a man now?’

Mrs. Hilton felt surprised at these last questions. ‘Why all this sudden interest in the Hollands?’ she asked. ‘What are you up to? You’re usually up to something when you begin this sort of thing.’

Pip sighed. Mothers were much too sharp. They were like dogs. Buster always sensed when anything was out of the ordinary, and so did mothers. Mothers and dogs both had a kind of second sight that made them see into people’s minds and know when anything unusual was going on.

Leave it to Blyton to compare mothers with dogs!

The following is a fantastic dialog delivered by Fatty to Ern and it had an impact on me when I first read it nine years ago. I read it and reread it multiple times.

The setting: Fatty, Larry, and Pip go in search of Ern who has been kidnapped and is a prisoner in the hideout of a group of car thieves. Fatty rightly deduces this and sneaks in with the others and finds Ern. At this moment, Fatty realizes that a missing-Ern would alert the thieves and he decides to leave him behind so that he could alert the police first, who could then arrest these criminals and rescue Ern. But Ern is not so brave to stay behind. He is already mentally exhausted and scared and just wants to escape.

Chapter 15, page 154.

‘I can’t do that,’ said Ern, almost crying. ‘You don’t know what it’s like, to be a prisoner like this and not know what’s going to happen to you. I can’t even think of any portry.

‘Aren’t you brave enough to do this one thing?’ said Fatty, sadly. ‘I did want to think well of you, Ern.’

Ern stared at Fatty, who looked back at him solemnly.

‘All right,’ said Ern. ‘I’ll do it, see! I’ll do it for you, Fatty, because you’re a wonder, you are! But I don’t feel brave about it. I feel all of a tremble.’

‘When you feel afraid to do a thing and yet do it, that’s real bravery,’ said Fatty. ‘You’re a hero, Ern!’

Fatty, the leader, comes to the fore and with just his words gives Ern the encouragement he needed to stay behind. And, I didn’t misspell poetry, ‘portry’ is how Ern pronounces the word.

Mr. Goon’s misadventures are a riot to read and I often felt sorry for him. Sometimes Fatty goes a little too far.

Enid Blyton is pure magic. I’ve previously written about how much I love her. She passed away in 1968 and I still feel bad that she is not with us. How I wish I could meet her.

I’ve already started rereading The Mystery of the Secret Room! Here I come, Fatty and gang!

My Top 10 Ten Favourite Books

There are so many books out there and so little time to read. I say this so often, and I am pretty sure that I’ll say this for many, many more years. Listing my top ten books is a bit tricky. I am yet to read, what many call, “must-read books.”  How does one choose his/her favourite books? One chooses, I think, based on the feelings or emotions or just the general feel that one gets whilst reading a book.  How about the criteria, the quality of the work or how well the book is written? Quality is important, but it is not the only criteria as I have discovered over many years of reading. For lack of better words, I am going to put it this way — I am a heart person rather than a brain person. So if something has to become my favourite, then that thing should touch my heart in someway. Let me explain. Who is a better writer, Dan Brown or Enid Blyton? Seems to be an unfair comparison. I’ve read about three of the seven or eight books that Dan Brown has written and I have read more than 60 Enid Blyton books. Now Dan Brown’s books are mind-blowing. I have no words to explain how awesome his books are and yet I do not love his books. Why? Because it is my brain that enjoyed his books, not my heart. But when I read EB’s books(yes, of course, she’s a children’s writer), my heart just enjoys them so much! So to me, Enid Blyton is more lovable than Dan Brown.

Enough said. Without further ado, let me present my list (in no particular order).

* The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

* The King Arthur Trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliff

* Kidnapped by RL Stevenson

* Odyssey by Homer

* Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

* The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton

* The Mystery series by Enid Blyton

* The Adventure series by Enid Blyton (and many other EB books)

* The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

* The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (I am holding off from reading LOTR as I think it’s a very precious work to be read now and forgotten later. I am planning to devise a note-taking method to note down stuff as I read through these books).

I have to admit that I did a little cheating in this list. Some of the items in this list include entire series instead of a single book and I’ve also listed some of my “brain books” rather than the “heart books” that I talked about. I wonder what those books are 😉

Apart from these, there are other notable ones that I’ve immensely enjoyed like the Red Wall series by Brian Jacques, The Three Investigators series by Alfred Hitchcock, Leo Tolstoy’s short stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and many others.

Of course, over the coming years this list is going to be updated. But I just don’t see some books getting off this list.

Related Post: I Love King Arthur!

The Hobbit: An Analysis

The Hobbit: An Analysis

About six years ago, I read the Hobbit for the first time and was mesmerized by it. It was so well written that I decided that I had to reread it sometime again. I also stopped myself from reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as I thought that I had to study the Hobbit deeply first. And that’s exactly what I did three weeks ago; I studied the entire book and took notes. Now I am free to read LOTR!

hobbithouse, shire

Spoiler Alert! The following analysis reveals the whole plot along with its twists and turns. So don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you!

The Hobbit chronicles the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, right from when Gandalf meets him one morning until the passage of one whole year. The stage is set on the very first chapter when Bilbo meets the 13 Dwarves, including Thorin Oakenshield, heir to the treasure under the Mountain that is guarded by the dragon Smaug. Together they cross the treacherous Misty Mountains that is overrun by goblins, pass through the dangerous Mirkwood forest, escape the prisons of the Wood-Elves, and finally reach the Lonely Mountain. How they overcome the dragon and the goblin onslaught towards the end makes for a very interesting twin-climax.

The following is a bird’s-eye view of how this story spans across its 19 chapters. The chapters that I have highlighted are the most important ones and the chapters that I have highlighted with the same colour are closely related to each other.

1 The goal is set, and all the important characters are established

2 Some action: encounter with trolls (adds little to the overall story)

3 Rest and some information to achieve the goal is acquired (nothing very important)

4 Important action that sets the ball rolling for the climax: goblin attack and killing of the Great Goblin (but the ball rolls in the background; the reader is not aware of the consequence of this action until the end)

5 Turning point: Discovery of ring

6 The action from the previous chapter escalates which leads us to new characters (The Eagles) that help the protagonist and his team towards the climax.

7 Rest and intro of new character (Beorn) that helps the main characters at the end

8 An ordeal (trek through forest), attack (spiders), and imprisonment (by wood-elves)

9 Ordeal continues in prison and escape

10 Rest at Lake-town

11 Search to locate the secret door

12 Protagonist acquires important info to defeat antagonist

13 This chapter adds very little to the overall story (Bilbo pockets Arkenstone)

14 The main antagonist is killed, but more trouble follows

15 Buildup to the second climax

16 This chapter adds very little to the overall story (Bilbo tries to stop battle with Arkenstone)

17 The second climax

18 Journey towards home

19 All is well

Based on the events, actions, character introductions, turning point, and the two climaxes, I have created the following graphs that show us the flow of the story.



I arrived at these graphs by assigning points to events, actions, character introductions (which explains the huge spike at the very beginning), turning point, the two climaxes and so on. Not all events and actions get the same points; I have awarded higher points to events and actions that are more important (example: the dwarves and Bilbo escape the wood-elves prison) and fewer points to events and actions that are less important (example: the troll incident which adds very little to the overall story). So what I did understand from all this was that The Hobbit, with its 90,000+ words, contain eight action blocks and 17 events.

To better understand these graphs, the following chapter-wise split-up would help.

Chapter 1:
The stage is set. The protagonist is introduced and he is told his goal – the quest for treasure.
The goal of the novel is established in the very first chapter.
We are also introduced to the most important characters in this chapter.

Chapter 2:

Just a small skirmish that adds little to the story, except for the only fact that the protagonist and his team acquire some weapons which comes in handy later. They also acquire some treasure which is nothing compared to the final goal.

Chapter 3:
A short rest and some intel on acquiring the treasure.

Chapter 4:
A mini battle takes place which sets the ball rolling for the final battle(unknown to the reader at this time).

Chapter 5:
A very important object is acquired by the main character which decides the fate of this whole story. This event changes the hero.

Chapter 6:
The situation is further escalated with more action as the enemies follow-up. But they are repeatedly defeated for a second time and the hero/hero’s team gets a new ally: The Eagles.

Chapter 7:
A short rest and again the team is reinforced with a new ally: Beorn.
But they also lose an important friend temporarily in this chapter: Gandalf.

Chapter 8:
An ordeal and a challenge (spider attack). Most of the team is imprisoned by the Wood-Elves.
Until Chapter 7, the team was going through an adventure. But in this chapter, the adventure turns into an ordeal.

Chapter 9:
The ordeal continues. But the hero hatches a plan to save his team and the plan itself is an ordeal. But it works.

Chapter 10:
A short rest

Chapter 11:
The buildup towards the climax begins from this chapter. They reach the Mountain guarded by the dragon and search for a way in using their map.

Chapter 12:
The hero is sent on a reconnaissance mission. He succeeds and find’s the enemy’s weakest point. The dragon then flies to Lake-town.

Chapter 13:
Adds little to the story except for the fact that Bilbo pockets the Arkenstone, which is very important to Thorin. The plot surrounding this stone is itself not very important and it adds very little to the overall story. Towards the end, Bilbo tries to use this precious stone to stop the battle, but the battle takes place anyway. So the author has used Arkenstone only for two purposes:

1. Thorin, in his deathbed, speaks philosophy: says that the world would be a better place if everyone behaves like hobbits who value food, friends, and music above things like treasure; a moral is conveyed.

2. Bilbo becomes a great friend of wood-elves and Bard because of this stone.
What the Arkenstone really does is that it adds value to the Hero’s character.

Chapter 14:
This is a little flashback into Chapter 12. The dragon after flying to Lake-town had been killed by Bard. The dwarves and Bilbo learn this important piece of news in this chapter.
But trouble brews up for the dwarves as the Elven King sends an army to acquire the treasure.

So chapters 11, 12, 13 and, 14 constitute a mini climax. Until now the readers are made to believe that succeeding the dragon to get the treasure to be the main goal. But now we have a little subplot and we need another climax.

Chapter 15:
The stage is set for a battle between elves and men on one side against the dwarves.

Chapter 16:
The Arkenstone story discussed previously. It adds nothing to the overall story other than enhancing the image of our hero – Bilbo Baggins.

Chapter 17:
This is the climax chapter.
A twist in the tale: just when we think that the battle is about to begin a new common enemy enters. The battle does happen, but the dwarves, men, and elves together fight against the goblins.

Chapter 18:
Our hero’s return journey commences with some rest in the middle.

Chapter 19:
The journey continues and Bilbo reaches the Shire. All is well.

Note: You can also read the above content on my Padlet page which is more clear and better presented.

 I also wrote a more elaborate chapter-by-chapter summary for this book which I couldn’t fit into the narrow confines of this WordPress blog in a way that is best to read. So I relied on Google sites to better present it after experimenting with a few other blogging platforms. You can find it here.

Wikipedia has a fantastic page on the list of characters and their roles in the novel.

I Love King Arthur!

About seven years back, I read an abridged version of the book ‘King Arthur and the Knights of the round table’ by Howard Pyle and I was hooked to it from the start. Later I bought another book – ‘The King Arthur Trilogy’ by Rosemary Sutcliff and on that day I swore fealty to His Majesty, King Arthur to be his faithful chivalrous Knight. After that I started collecting every book connected to the Arthurian legend that I came across. Given below is the list of books that I have in my collection.

1. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Howard Pyle

2. The King Arthur Trilogy, by Rosemary Sutcliff (One of my favourite books)

3. Knights of the Grail, By Linda Proud

4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court, by Mark Twain

5. The Sword in the Stone, by T. H. White (I stopped reading this book after the first four or five chapters as it was not to my liking).

Update (5/21/2013):

6. Relics of the Dead, by Ariana Franklin (bought and read during October 2012)

7. Arthurian Romances, by Chretien de Troyes (bought somewhere around April 2013, but yet to be read)

I look forward to read more about His Highness and expand my collection.

God save the King!

If I am to write a book, what book will I write?

I really do want to write a book. There’s a writer sleeping within me and he wants to be awake and active.

I know what I will write – A children’s book in Enid Blyton’s style. That would be absolutely smashing!

I have already made up mind on what to write. No, I won’t be revealing what my idea is. It’s a secret. My day job is taking away all my precious time and I am not at all in the mood to write anything during the weekends. How pathetic! I am seriously thinking of quitting my job to live the life that I want to. I am a man of the Arts. I love doing everything that is related to arts. But the only thing that I am good at is writing, and it is also the only thing that I love to do so very much! When am I going to start writing? God help me!

The Master Key System

I am currently reading this book – The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel and it seems to be a great book so far. Have read the first two chapters – one chapter for each week, as there are exercises given at the end of each chapter to practice for a whole week or until you master the exercise. I read some fascinating things in this book and I would like to summarize what I have read so far.

Chapter 1 and 2:

There are two worlds – the world that is outside us and the world that is within us. The world within is governed by our mind. We can find infinite wisdom, power and supply of all that is necessary within our world.

Using our subconscious mind we can do anything we want. All that has happened to us is because of our thoughts. Thoughts are energy; we can use them to shape our world. So it is vital to control our thoughts.

We do things with our conscious mind and we can make mistakes while we do things. Things like writing something, singing or any voluntary action. Our subconscious mind controls things like our blood circulation, heart beats, our breathing, etc. So when our subconscious mind is in charge of a task it does it perfectly unlike our conscious mind. So the idea here is what if we do voluntary things using our subconscious mind. We can do things correctly and we’ll be the Kings of the world! Now doesn’t that sound great? It will be great if we can put to practice the things given in the book.

The exercise given in Chapter 1 is to sit still without moving our body for 20 or 30 minutes. We just have to sit still, no need to meditate. I did this easily. But I had difficulties in executing the second task. We have to sit still and must stop thinking. This would help us to control our thoughts. Guess, I have to go to meditation classes to accomplish this, for I have a highly imaginative mind and I consider myself as a great thinker. I think a lot.

I have added below a few thought provoking lines from that book.

– The source of all power is the world within, the Universal Fountain of supply, the Infinite Energy of which each individual is an outlet.

– Thought concentrated on a definite purpose becomes power.

– It has been found that by plainly stating to the subconscious mind certain specific things to be accomplished, forces are set in operation that lead to the result desired.

– We shall find that there is a vast difference between simply thinking, and directing our thought consciously, systematically, and constructively; when we do this we place our mind in harmony withthe Universal Mind , we come in tune with the Infinite, we set in operation the mightiest force in existence – the creative power of the Universal Mind.

Will update this post after reading the third chapter.