Be kind, be happy
The Book of Kindness
Author: Om Swami
Publisher: Harper Collins
There’s a happiness frenzy that’s taken over, which seems to hinge on the belief that constant happiness is our right. And while a body of research does show that instant indulgences do calm us down, albeit briefly, they leave us physically unhealthy, generally more miserable, and lacking the real skills to get us out of our rut.
So, when I saw the newest title from best-selling author Om Swami, The Book of Kindness, I was happy to see the blurb on the back cover that says it advocates a definitive means to achieve true happiness: through kindness. The book is written in his inimitable style and is in three distinct sections: understanding kindness, practising kindness, and mastering kindness. It is peppered with stories that ask us to think about the interconnectedness of lives and about what we choose to see and ignore as we move through life.
Yes, I liked the book: I enjoy reading what Swami has to say, and you could say I am a fan. His straightforward style and the collection of stories demand that you turn the page to discover the promised ‘how.’ Swamiji opens up about his childhood and notes the kindness he learnt from his parents and siblings; that it is the ability to love, to disagree, to give someone personal space, and to acknowledge them.
Throughout the book, there is an emphasis on the importance of compassion linked with giving, which Swami says ‘is kindness in a nutshell.’ The book darts around acts of kindness that are genuine and includes stories that he has read and ones that people have written about on Black Lotus, a mobile app promoted by him. The app prompts you to perform Random Acts of Kindness (Raks) and guides you to a more mindful and happier life. And, like a dear friend pointed out, one of the most startling statements in the book that is against the current thinking is that meditation alone is NOT enough: meditation without kindness cannot make one happy.
The book has made me think. It made me laugh. A couple of stories left me misty-eyed. It encouraged me to see that being kind is the only way to lasting happiness. And it made me want to join the Kindness Movement.
Diary of a Cheerful Cancer Fighter
Tales from the Tail End
Author: Ananya Mukherjee
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
The journey of a cancer patient is agonising and, though very closely experienced by caregivers, it is difficult to fathom the emotions, thoughts, and everything else they go through internally. Ananya Mukherjee (who lost the fight with cancer on 18 November 2018), in her book Tales from the Tail End adopts a very jovial and brave tone in sharing her thoughts and voicing her opinions. Despite suffering from breast cancer, she chooses to escape the morose narration of her journey and, in a very matter-of-fact manner, describes her days and experiences. This book is an honest account of that part of her life; where most people would lose hope and give in to the decaying process. She found beauty in a new light, not allowing the decay to consume her before it had to.
Reading the account (tinged with humour) of her daily life as a cancer patient gives the reader an idea of the person she was—head-strong, indomitable, fun-loving, and smart-witted. The book is scattered with cheeky comments and audacious remarks which make the reader feel like they’re having a real conversation with the author. Ananya doesn’t limit her writing to just philosophical thoughts and deep revelations but extends it to include an array of things, venturing into seemingly mundane territories to share her thoughts in the mind-web, unflinchingly.
Her spirit remains intact throughout the book and thrives in each chapter, duly reflecting her choice to fight cancer cheerfully. Ananya turns the painful struggles of chemo sessions into comic anecdotes of ‘angry veins,’ the process of losing hair into a game of tug-of-war with the ‘fancy-free wig,’ compares the breast to the blood-thirsty goddess Kali, and demands better incentives for patients coming out on the other side of the deadly disease. The book flows in a tragi-comic tone and one cannot help but read between the lines to find the miniscule but definite moments of sadness, which were given only that much space in the book and, evidently, in the two-year journey of her fight against cancer.
The hopeful glint she lives with is summed up in a line from the book, “Broken or maimed by life, with a future or hair or without either, it’s always a good time to love.” And as the book cover depicts, even in the depressing grey, she remains colourful as ever. Have a good read!
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