Self Isolation Recommendations / Books, Anime and Hobbies

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Feel-Good Books to Read

  • 100 Poems are not enough, Walking Book Fairs
  • Wonder, R.J. Palacio
  • The Sun is also a Star, Nicola Yoon
  • Captain Underpants Series, Dav Pilkey
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney
  • The Babysitter’s Club Series, Ann M Martin
  • Funny Poems, Jan Dean

Uplifting Anime

  • Iwatobi Swim Club
  • One Punch Man
  • Little Witch Academia
  • Flavors of Youth

New things to try:

  • Painting
  • Baking from scratch
  • Junk Journaling
  • Making videos
  • Improving on a language you know
  • Blogging

Hope you all are safe and healthy.

Saadia

Sadness

“My sorrow, when she’s here with me, 

Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

are beautiful as days can be.”

 ~ Robert Frost

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sadness makes herself at home again

and my limbs stay by my sides,

weighed down to begin with,

defeated without a fight.

She grins at me

over the rim of her cup

and reminds me of how much

it takes to stay afloat,

I forget I’d realized

my freedom to leave,

another leaden sip

burns down my throat.

 

10 Children’s Books that will bring you Joy

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I’ve always had a special place for books written for children, be it the unassuming descriptions, marvelous adventures, vivid descriptions of the country and food or the lessons that many adults seem to have missed out on. Here are 10 such books that have brought me sustained joy and I hope they do the same for you:

  1. As Fast as words could fly by Pamela M Tuck: This is a story of how a black boy, using his confidence and typing skills faces challenges in a ‘white-only’ school in the 60s. Giving a child’s account of the effort to end segregation, this book shows how society’s burdens rest on the smallest of shoulders even though it may not seem so. Further, this book successfully shows how our worth is determined by our actions more than any other label society may use as a yardstick.
  2. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl: Progressing from a sad and disheartening orphan story to a shared adventure, culminating in a joyful close, Dahl’s first book is a conglomerate of fantasy, magic and delightful adventure.
  3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: Capturing both the soaring spirits of youth and the calm resignation of old age, The Giving Tree shows the relationship between a tree and a young boy and how it changes as he grows older. The author’s ability to capture the stillness of endurance in the face of departing from one’s own self is awe inspiring.
  4. Charlotte’s Web by E.B White: Defined as a “tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death,” this book shows the importance of true friends and the immense value they add to our lives.
  5. To be a Drum by Evelyn Coleman: The drum, a long held symbol of African roots is invoked by a father when he teaches his children about how the self becomes this symbol and how this becoming has sustained their ancestors through slavery, wars and the Civil Rights Movement. This book stays with you long after you’ve read it.
  6. The Elves and the Shoemaker by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: A classic Grimm’s fairytale for many children is recreated yet another time by LaMarche’s warm and beautiful illustrations. This story traverses through how a poor shoemaker receives much-needed help from two young elves and how the circle of kindness is completed.
  7. The Tooth by Avi Slodovnick: A story of the innocence of childhood and empathy, Slodovnick weaves a simple dentist’s visit into something greater and more nuanced through the eyes of a child.
  8. Somebody Loves you, Mr Hatch by Eileen Spinelli: This story of friendship, community and reaching out, coupled with Paul Yalowitz’s dreamy illustrations makes for a jolly read and on a deeper thought, makes us question our enforced mundanity into our daily lives.
  9. Till the Clouds Roll by by Ruskin Bond: Trying to escape the unfamiliar place of his mother’s new family, 10 year old Ruskin loses himself in books, forests and markets of the town, forming friendships and creating lifelong memories along the way. The illustrations by Mihir Joglekar add comfort and simple beauty to the book.
  10. The Coal Thief by Alane Adams: Yet another story of empathy or the compassion taught by suffering, as Kahlil Gibran calls it, The Coal Thief shows how humanity can survive in the coldest and dreariest of times. As the coal warms up a community, the resilience of love warms the reader’s heart.

~ Saadia

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man – Fyodor Dostoevsky

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“A dream is a strange thing. Pictures appear with terrifying clarity, the minutest details engraved like pieces of jewelry, and yet we leap unawares through huge abysses of time and space.”

 This is a short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky written in 1877. It chronicles the experiences of a man who decides that there is nothing of any value in the world. – Wikipedia

The journey of a man from a nihilist to a believer, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man walks us through his suicidal inclinations, a small encounter that changes the course of a lifetime, a sudden sleep, a vivid dream, travel through space and time, a parallel universe, corruption, social constructs, a change of mind and the attainment of ‘truth’.

Dostoevsky writes this story based on his own experience; a dream that changed his view on life and the human condition. He examines the self intensely, asks questions that he seemingly can’t get answers to and when he does, rejects the notion of knowledge being more important than love. He maintains the belief that suffering gives life meaning and changes us, how we interact with the world.

“On our earth we can only love sincerely with suffering and through suffering. We do not know how to love any other way and know no other love. I want to suffer so that I can love.”

This short story is also full of allusions to Christian faith; a figure of grace, references to crucifixion, humanity’s ‘fall from grace’ shows a hint of the fall from Eden, and the realization “love others as you love yourself.”

A work that untangles fold by fold and seeks to talk about a multitude of themes, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a compelling story on nihilism, faith and humanity.

~ Saadia

 

 

Advice to Enneagram type 4s

09b89588609698697b03d11163eec4e1.jpg“The Enneagram refers to the nine different types or styles, with each representing a worldview and archetype that resonates with the way people think, feel and act in relation to the world, others and themselves.” – integrative9.com

After hearing a lot about this ‘personality test’ last year, I finally decided to give it a go without expecting much, I just wanted to find out what number I was on this seemingly popular scale. (I am a 4) I wasn’t ready for how precisely it would pin down my biggest fear, my drive, behavioral patterns and my relationship with friends. It felt like someone had studied my behavior and beliefs for the entire course of my life and then summarized it. So if anyone of you reading is interested in learning about your driving motivations and basic belief, you can take the test here (https://www.9types.com/rheti/index.php) . Personally, I use the enneagram as a tool to understand myself better, improve on my shortcomings and understand what certain feelings/emotions actually mean.

After reading every possible article, watching every video, listening to podcasts on type 4s, I still found a lack of helpful advice or tips that might ease the harshness of everyday realities for 4s, so I decided to start a list of things I’ve learnt about being a type 4, especially after being in the most tumultuous period of life so far with a hope that it will help other 4s out there in navigating this crazy, messy world. I’ll keep updating this post as I learn more about myself and grow into a more tranquil and cohesive 4.

  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself: Being idealistic and driven, you can take up too much at once, give it your best shot and then start burning out. I have done this countless number of time by taking up 4-5 huge goals at once instead of starting out steadily and then building up. It seems strange to not take up everything you want to be good at so you plan extensively and then find yourself exhausted 4 days down the road. Take up 2 long term goals (both should NOT take a lot of willpower, they should differ in their intensity) and a very-short term one (think reading a book, decluttering, making notes) at a time so that while you are building productive momentum by ticking off the very-short term goals, riding the wave of optimism with the low will-power goal, you are fulfilling a long term one without feeling entirely spent. 12 months, 8-12 long term goals and you are so much closer to who you want to be.
  2. Patience:  Continuing on from 1, it is easy to get tired with seemingly ‘low rate’ of growth but know that no one gets to their best self in a week. What we want to build is not a stamina for a summer hobby but the ‘grit’ for an entire lifetime and that takes more failures than successes and the patience to be a beginner over and over again. It is hella scary but worth it in the end.
  3. On taking everything personally: This has probably wasted SO much of your time and tears. I still struggle with being extremely sensitive but what has helped me get a bit better with it is accepting that what a person says about me/to me has more to do with what kind of person they are rather than who I am. This seems like cringy, old-school advice but it works.
  4. Melancholy: The most important thing I learnt about the intense melancholic moods 4s experience comes from a podcast (can’t remember the name, will link if i find it). The speaker was a 4 too and she said,” Know that you are feeding the melancholy; at any moment you can choose to snap out of it and do something that’ll make you feel better.” What struck me was how it clarified that I had a choice in the matter because when I am down in the dumps, I feel so stuck that I start believing that the only thing I can do is stay there and wallow in self-hate and be morose.
  5. Emotional Turbulence: What can help you be more tranquil is ensuring your basic needs at ALL TIMES; keep hydrated, eat at regular intervals, get 40 minutes of exercise, manage stress by taking breaks, because often feelings can seem to be totally separate from the body but really, well-balanced health regulates your emotions and help you lead a wholesome, well-rounded life.
  6. Identity: As a creative 4, it is important for my mental health to keep writing poetry, reading books or consuming art to feel like myself. If I take long breaks from doing those things, I feel less confident in my ‘identity’ than I already am. Find what are those things that ground you and help you feel more yourself  and do them regularly.
  7. Perfectionism: Being idealistic can also lead to 4s giving up on doing any basic or small task because it isn’t ‘significant’ enough or ‘perfect’ enough but almost always, I’ve found that doing these small tasks is extremely important to get closer to a balanced state. So try to overcome the crippling need to be ideal at all times and try to jazz up the small things by listening to a podcast or TED talk to take your mind off of them. Similarly, take care of the small things about yourself even if they seem insignificant.I have also found resistance to keep creating art because it didn’t feel good enough but I try to keep in mind that a great artist always chooses volume over perfection and to reach a certain level of greatness at my craft, I must keep at it.
  8. Nostalgia: I still struggle with letting the past go but have certainly come a long way from when the past was all I could think of. I made a realistic list of things to look forward to, I planned stuff with friends and family, occupied myself with new goals and books, changed my style and surroundings to not fall into the dark pit of nostalgia. Another thing that worked for me was allowing myself to think of a moment gone by but actively helping myself realize that there was nothing to gain from the past.
  9. Support: Even if you maintain a steady emotional and mental health, it is best to have a close friend to confide in when you feel dreadful and incompetent. Trust someone who has similar thinking patterns as you or is very empathetic and a good listener and let them help you untangle the threads of confusing emotions.
  10. Confidence: This comes last as it is something I am still working towards improving. 4s think of themselves as fundamentally lacking. I used to struggle with immense self-hate but I got over it by continuously reminding myself all that I liked about myself till I started liking what I despised in me. Continuous positive self-talk can create wonders yet, I have a long way to go in this regard.

Disclaimer: This is written from a personal experience POV and may or may not work for every type 4. The trick is to take what works for you, leave what doesn’t and try to come up with other mechanisms that might help you be a tranquil, joyful 4.

~ Saadia

pic sources: pinterest

 

 

Rent Party Jazz by William Miller – Book Review, Themes and Rating.

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Rent Party Jazz is a short book about a young boy Sonny Comeaux and his mother living in New Orleans in poverty and how an empathetic stranger helps them pay rent and stay in their lodgings.

Review: This book represents the conditions of African-Americans in the 1920s and onwards realistically. The elements of optimism, empathy and love within the community made this a heart-warming read. This book, within a few pages, shows how art can bring people together and help us be more hopeful in times of hardship and impending disaster. The illustrations by Charlotte Riley Web are a perfect fit to the story line.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Themes: 

  1.  African-American representation
  2. Poverty
  3. Responsibility
  4. Hope
  5. Community
  6. Empathy
  7. Art (Music)

Grab yourself a copy here:

https://amzn.to/2HoucRj

Or you can listen to it on YouTube:

~ Saadia

Heidi by Johanna Spyri – Book review, Plot Summary, Themes and Rating

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Heidi is a children’s book written by the Swiss author Johanna Spyri. It was initially published in 2 parts and written in German. It is one the best-selling books ever written about the childhood years of a girl living with her grandfather in the Alps.

Plot Summary: The book opens with Heidi being taken to the Alps to live with her grandfather by her aunt Dete. Dete has cared for Heidi since she was a baby as both of her parents had died under grievous circumstances but now she had a job offer and could no longer take care of her. The villagers are unsettled by this decision as Uncle Alp, Heidi’s grandfather, is known to be resentful and solitary and had renounced religion. However, after some initial reluctance, they form a close bond. Heidi loves living in the mountains and holds the beauty of nature and its vibrant colors close to her heart. She befriends Peter and his grandmother and brings joy to everyone she interacts with by her simple and unaffected behavior.

Aunt Dete appears after having left Heidi for a good while. She comes with the news of having found a job in Frankfurt for Heidi as a companion to a physically-challenged girl, Clara. Dete claims that this experience would be valuable to Heidi as Grandfather hadn’t  sent her to school or church. Heidi’s departure leaves Grandfather and Peter’s grandmother in dismay. In Frankfurt, Heidi learns to love Clara and Clara’s grandmother, who teaches her about the importance of prayer and submission to God. On the other hand, the forbidding Miss Rottenmeier makes Heidi unhappy. She starts missing the mountains quickly and grows more miserable by the day. Phantom occurrences are revealed to be Heidi in a state of sleepwalking because of her homesickness. A kind doctor advises that Heidi must return to the mountains to restore her health.

She returns to the ever-sprightly mountains and its people and brings more light into their lives while gaining happiness herself. Due to Heidi’s words and encouragement, Grandfather returns to religion and they go to Church together. He also renounces his solitary ways and makes peace with the people of the village.

Clara visits the Alps later and is nursed back to color with the help of Grandfather’s hospitality, the nutritious homemade food and the mountain air. She starts getting healthier and stronger by the day. Peter, being envious of her monopolizing Heidi’s time,  causes her wheelchair to break. Surprisingly though, with help from Heidi and Peter, Clara begins to walk. Clara’s father promises Grandfather that he will take care of Heidi when the old man dies.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: Heidi is written in a freely flowing, imaginative and well-paced style. The author has successfully portrayed a child’s character as unaffected and simple, yet kind and empathetic. The character building is effective and true to real life. Even though it is a children’s fiction, it can easily and competently be read by people of all ages with immense enjoyment. It stays snug within its genre yet manages to push the boundaries and become something more. This is the reason why it has become the symbol of Swiss folklore around the world and stayed alive for 138+ years. The language is lucid and immersive. The author intermixes humor and important, valuable lessons throughout the second half of the book.

Heidi’s character is relatable to anyone who has experienced homesickness/ lived away from home. Reading about her thought process and unending sympathy is refreshing and rejuvenating.  This book would be perfect for anyone, at anytime. It is incredibly relaxing and great for a weekday afternoon.

Scholastic edition: https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/9352755758/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=3638&creative=24630&creativeASIN=9352755758&linkCode=as2&tag=saadia-21&linkId=005328c94c32bd531287aa64c22441ec

 

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Themes: 

  1. The healing power of nature.
  2. Family and relationships.
  3. Empathy
  4. Religion (Christianity)

“I’ll always say my prayers… and if God doesn’t answer them at once I shall know it’s because He’s planning something better for me.”

“The happiest of all things is when an old friend comes and greets us as in former times; the heart is comforted with the assurance that some day everything that we have loved will be given back”

”It’s the sun’s way of saying goodnight to the mountains” he explained. ”He spreads that beautiful light over them so that they won’t forget him till he comes back in the morning.”

~ Saadia

Matilda by Roald Dahl – Book Review, Themes, Rating and Summary

20190504_230532.jpgPlot Summary: Matilda, written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake tells the story of a very young girl who is an extraordinarily bright kid for her age, quick to learn new things but never appreciated, rather disregarded by her parents. She teaches herself to read by the age of 3 through newspapers and magazines. On finishing the only book in her house, she asks her father to buy her one, to which he sternly refuses. Her father believed in spending his leisure time watching the television and her mother played bingo every afternoon. Matilda sets out by herself to the library and over the course of a few weeks, reads all the children’s books in the library. In the following 6 months, she reads the works of authors like Dickens, Bronte, Austen, Hemingway and George Orwells. All of this happens without her parents’ knowledge who still think that she’s unworthy . She turns to to acts like gluing her father’s hat to his head, hiding a friend’s parrot in the chimney to give the impression of a burglar or a ghost and secretly bleaching her father’s hair, to get revenge on her parents for regarding her with contempt.

On joining kindergarten, Matilda befriends her teacher, Ms Honey, who is astonished by Matilda’s ability to recite tables and read long and complex sentences. She tries to move her into a higher class to guide her within a competition that was up to her cognitive abilities but is refused by the brutish headmistress, Miss Agatha Trunchbull. Miss Honey also tries to talk to Matilda’s parents about her intellectual abilities, but they pay her no heed. Matilda develops a strong bond with Miss Honey and watches as Miss Trunchbull terrorizes her students with over-the-top punishments to prevent parents from believing their children complaining. When Matilda’s friend, Lavender, plays a practical joke on Miss Trunchbull, Matilda uses an sudden, bizarre power of telekinesis to tip the glass of water containing a newt onto Miss Trunchbull.

After Matilda reveals her powers to Miss Honey, Miss Honey reveals that she was raised by an cruel, brutish aunt after the dubious death of her father. Her aunt is revealed to be Miss Trunchbull, who withholds her niece’s inheritance so that Miss Honey has to live in destitution in a shabby, insecure farm cottage. Preparing to extract retribution for Miss Honey, Matilda develops her telekinetic ability by practicing at home. Later, during a lesson that Miss Trunchbull is teaching, Matilda telekinetically raises a piece of chalk to the blackboard and writes on it, acting as the spirit of Miss Honey’s late father and demanding that Miss Trunchbull hand over Miss Honey’s house and wages and leave the area for good.

Miss Trunchbull’s house is later found empty with no sign of where she went. Matilda continues to visit Miss Honey’s now returned house regularly. One day  she finds her parents and her older brother in a hurry, packing to escape from the police, who are after her father for selling stolen cars. Matilda tells them that she wants to live with Miss Honey, to which her parents uninterruptedly agree. Hence, both Matilda and Miss Honey find their happy ending, and the school’s atmosphere improves immensely under Mr. Trilby, the new head of school.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Review:  The book is fast paced which makes it a really fun read. The intricate way of weaving important lessons into a story for children leaves a lasting impression on the reader. The writing style is simple, perfect for new readers. The expressions used by Roald Dahl are hilarious and perfectly fitting at the same time. The character building is masterfully done, the side characters add to the dynamic nature of the book. Every character’s values shine clearly through the writing.

Themes:

  • The child-parent relationship portrayed is much needed and true for many households. Such topics often get sidelined in mainstream literature.
  • Matilda has a small number of people in her life who truly stick by her side, so she is incredibly loyal to the ones that do.
  • The main character of this book is a young girl who is much smarter and kinder than almost all of the characters who are adults. This is an opposite of the usual portrayal of children vs adults.
  • Dahl perfectly shows how family can be found beyond blood as Matilda finds a home with Ms Honey instead of her parents.
  • The focus on value knowledge and learning.
  • Greed leads to a sour end.

Final Thoughts (source: Wikipedia)

“Why does a part of us not want to know what Matilda has become? Somewhere in our heart of hearts we never want Matilda to grow up – we want her to be like Peter Pan, eternally young.” ~ Cressida Cowell

Get this book for Rs 200 https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/0141365463/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=3638&creative=24630&creativeASIN=0141365463&linkCode=as2&tag=saadia-21&linkId=01d326d0755b70e1a93cf7bd3ac6bb40

Every Roald Dahl book for Rs 180 each https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/0141371331/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=3638&creative=24630&creativeASIN=0141371331&linkCode=as2&tag=saadia-21&linkId=ad8480719f1bde1dbbe918d77a28ae49

Quote pic Sources: Pinterest.

~ Crafted with love, always, Saadia.