Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

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It took me sometime to pick up the much touted book  “To Kill a Mocking Bird”.  It would have been a miss had I not picked it up.  Written by Harper Lee, the book turned out to be a thought provoking and a delightful read.  In an emphatic fashion the author describes a story of a lawyer, his values, his family and in the process highlights the ironies of the human race.

  1. The Story and the Scope-  Set up during the period of racism in USA, To Kill a Mocking Bird is a story of a righteous white lawyer, Atticus, who fights a case of a rape accused black. The society knows that the black is innocent but the society along with Atticus also knows that the black will be, in fact, he has to be punished in a white dominated society. The upright  Atticus thinks of the case as a lifetime opportunity for him to live his belief, and he lives it, with full weight,   knowing the fact that he and his family will be mocked by his own society for doing so.  The story is a sharp attack on the hypocrisy of human beings and on the social order which permits inequality. The story also highlights the goodness residing inside humans. In its scope, other than racism, the book beautifully captures the innocence and the curiosity of the children and their tussle to prove that they are grown up.
  2. The Flow of Plot – The story is narrated by Scout, daughter of Atticus. The first part of the book is more about Scout, her brother Jem and their childhood plays. Gradually, without making it conspicuous, the story shifts to Atticus and his case. And suddenly the gentle but gripping story turns to a page turner. Once you realize the shift, you would also realize that there are some unresolved and unconnected pieces in the plot but in the end all the pieces nicely falls in the place. Overall, the flow is superb.
  3. The Characters –  I have read the book sometime back  but I still remember the characters and their qualities, so lastingly they have been portrayed by the author. The adorable character of Atticus lives life beyond the story and the book. Brave, super courteous and upright in nature, Atticus is a paragon of human virtue.  His daughter Scout is a fierce girl who has been raised without mother and  his son Jem always itches to prove that he is grown up, a desire which is so wanted by the kids.  The childhood play of the kids revolve around Boo Radley – a neighbor who has never been seen in public- and the kids desire to meet him.
  4. The Language-  The language and the text is coherent and fluid.  Author has impactfully presented the moral conundrums of humans, the ironies of the society and the psyche of the growing children.   One phrase which stands out in my mind is Frog sticking without light,  a phrase which perhaps has come in to usage after being used by the author in the book, even if it had existed before.  The truth about the moral issues are described in plain but effective manner.

Few pearls from the book:

  •   Atticus finch on why he would fight for a black, knowing the end result: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. 
  • Describing the feelings about thing which is your second habit : “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” 
  • “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
  • “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”
  • A daughter’s pride described: “It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”
  • “Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

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Money Management – Few Things To Remember

It is the most sought after thing in the universe and yet, when it comes to managing the personal money, very few of us are good at it. Everybody wants to earn more money but even before we earn it, money makes a way out through expenditures, and mostly, we are left with a very little surplus. And if ever we are left with the decent amount of surplus then very few of us know what to do with it. I myself am not good at money management but I have learnt few lessons – academically or practically- and here I share them:index

1. A dollar today is worth than a dollar tomorrow– This is the most fundamental principle to understand. Because of the inflation and the uncertainty, the value of 1 dollar today is more than what it will be tomorrow. Compare today’s income with at least the inflation adjusted income of tomorrow. Plan your purchases and savings accordingly.

2.Write down your financial goals– Very important to be clear with why do you want money, and you can then seek help of experts on how to achieve your goals. You can further divide your goals in to short term and long term.

3. Account for income only when the money reaches your safe, but count the expenditure the moment you owe someone money: You should count your money, only when it is in your control. However, expenditures should be counted the moment you owe money to someone, even if you are going to pay him tomorrow. Planning your finances using this simple principle will always help you to remain afloat and ensure liquidity.

4. Save some amount for the contingency and then spend: Make way for the savings first. Some percent of your income (10- 30%) should go into the savings – insurance, MF, Gold, FD etc. However, Do not keep on saving at the cost of today. Living a good life today is as important. Good life although is a relative term but you should spend at least some amount on the hygiene factors – Good Health, Good Food and Decent clothes. Yes, even today, cars and mobile phones should come much later.

5. Your one of the first investment should be a term insurance plan: Should I call it an investment? Term Insurance plan is the plan which cover only your life and you do not get any money if you survive the cover period (Well no body wants this money :-P). And if, God forbid, something happens to you, your family gets the money. Term Insurance is the actual insurance plan. If your aim is to secure your family, this is the plan to buy. It is cheap too. Please do not mix and confuse insurance with investment.

6. Do not invest money in the stock market by taking tips from the TV experts: This is the worst way of investing money in the stock market. Realise this, that people who make money in the market, do so because they have better knowledge or more information than the others. When the expert comes and speaks on TV, he is virtually making everyone aware about that knowledge. The actual money in the stock market is made much before the tip is released to the normal people. Making money in the stock market requires good understanding of the market.

7. Invest in Mutual Funds through SIP: If you want to invest in stock market then enter through Mutual Funds. SIP (systematic investment plan) is a way to invest money in parts, on the fixed days of the months to avoid the downside in the market. In SIP, things average out in the long run and so it is less risky for a person who has no financial background.

8. In any loan, you pay more interest in the beginning: Yes, that is the way the banks design their loans. Of course you pay equal EMI’s every month but the EMI is designed in such a manner that the banks earn the interest part in the first few years and gradually over the years they take back the principal part (The maths behind this logic is beyond the scope of explanation for this blog, you can ask any expert). So, it is better to pay off the loan as quickly as possible because paying it during the last few years of the tenure is not as advantageous for you. This is truer in the case of home loans.

9. Invest in the assets which will not depreciate: Cars and gadgets are very important but the problem is that there value decreases over the period of time and with the usage. So, any purchase you are doing of such items is not an investment, but it is an expenditure. Investment is buying Gold or any such asset, which will gain value in future.

10. Avoid Using Credit Cards: Use credit cards only when there is no other option left. Then you will be in full command of your personal finances. If you keep on spending by using your credit card, after 5 days you will lose track of your expenditures because you have not paid for them so far. Also, remember that penalty charges for the late payment are very high in the case of credit cards.

Brilliant Words You Didn’t Know You Needed

Wow!! There are words for these everyday occurrences too!!

Nicholas C. Rossis

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Photo: Daniel Dalton / BuzzFeed / unsplash.com / Via urbandictionary.com

Continuing on the subject of words, you may have heard me say now and again how I marvel at the beauty and flexibility of the English language.

So why aren’t these beauties found on BuzzFeed part of our everyday conversations already?

Errorist
(n) Someone who repeatedly makes mistakes, or is always wrong

Carcolepsy
(n) A condition where a passenger falls asleep as soon as the car starts moving

Textpectation
(n) The anticipation felt when waiting for a response to a text

Bedgasm
(n) The feeling of euphoria experienced when climbing into bed at the end of a very long day

Nonversation
(n) A completely worthless conversation

Destinasia
(n) When by the time you have reached your destination, you have forgotten why you were going there in the first place

Cellfish
(n) An individual so caught up on their cell phone that…

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Book Review: The Book Thief

” I am haunted by humans”.        images

The ending of the The Book Thief is as true and impacting as it can be.

The Book Thief is a true masterpiece of a work by Markus Zusak, a work in which Death has a story to tell. And what a touching story he has and how beautifully he narrates it.   No, don’t infer that the book is about death and horror.  It is much more than that, it has a beautiful story, woven around a girl and an equally good narration in the backdrop of Hitler’s Germany.

The Story and the Scope: Set in the reign of Hitler, in a town of Germany, the story is about a girl, Leisel, her family and friend. The story is about the harsh realities, about the parental love, about the friendship, about the selflessness and selfishness, about the rich and the poor, about the war and yes it is about the death too.  Full marks to the author for brilliantly depicting the relationships, especially for the adorable depiction of Leisel’s cordial relationship with her father, I almost felt like it is the depiction of the my relationship with my daughter.  The condition of the Jews and the treatment met to them under the Hitler’s regime is also profoundly presented.

The Presentation and Organization: Wow!! Delightful!! Unique!! The presentation is simply superlative. With death as the narrator, the tone of the story changes multiple shades – with death being incisive at times, humorous at some places and sarcastic at some other times. Very peculiar to this book, the author presents the by-product thoughts (if that is the term I can use for all the secondary thoughts which flow in mind while focus is on primary thoughts) in the form of intervention notes, right in the middle of the page and these notes actually add lot of value to the story.  The book is organized into 10 chapters with several  small sub chapters under each.  Such kind of organization tempts reader in to reading those extra few chapters which usually would be postponed to the next seating.

The Flow of plot: On this front too, Zusak is brilliant. No amount of organized approach would help if the plot does not evolve smoothly.  At no point in time, author has lost the grip on the plot.  The flashbacks and the flash-forwards (Oh, this is another unique attribute, the author has flash-forwarded the story on few occasions and reveled the secrets when least expected, and then he merrily returns the story to its present) never looks out of story and are well timed.

The Characters: As a reader, I found it very easy to connect with the characters as most of them are real. Apart from the narrator and Leisel, there are several interesting characters.  There is Leisel’s friend Rudy, who thinks himself to be Jesse Owen, has habit of poking nose in others affairs and ending up in trouble. Leisel’s mother is temperamental, practical and has habit of using slang as every other word. Leisel’s father is a simple man who plays an amateur accordion and for Leisel there is no one who can play the accordion better than him.  There is Jewish fist fighter, Max, who gets shelter in the house of Leisel and with whom Leisel develops and indescribable attachment.  Of course,  through Max, the author despises everything for which Hitler stands for, and he is quite successful in evoking hatred towards Hitler.

The Language: The language used is such that the tones adopted by the narrator hits like an arrow.   The author is at his best when he writes about Hitler and when he describes the Death’s point of view about his job.  The realities of day to day life are also crisply described.

This is how narrator flash-forwards the story:  “Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

Some crisp statements:

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness. “
“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.”

“A small fact:
You are going to die….does this worry you?”

“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.

And Death’s statement on his job:
“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

She leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and Leisel kissed her best friend, Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips. He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of the anarchist’s suit collection. She kissed him long and soft, and when she pulled herself away, she touched his mouth with her fingers…She did not say goodbye. She was incapable, and after a few more minutes at his side, she was able to tear herself from the ground. It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on…”

“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”

More Review: https://enlightenedsid.wordpress.com/category/book-reviews/

Books for beginners (Non Fiction): https://enlightenedsid.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/suggested-read-for-beginners-ii-non-fiction/

Books for beginners (Fiction): https://enlightenedsid.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/suggested-book-reads-for-a-beginner-fiction/

A Page From Experience – 5 things to Remember while Setting Goals

What to keep in mind while setting goals? How to execute the plan?

Enlightened Sid

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During my engineering days, I once had an opportunity to attend a motivational seminar on the “Importance of Goals”.  By the end of the seminar I started to believe that I amthe master of my fate.  That night, I promised to start a journey, a journey to carve out my own fate.  Next day, with all the positivity I was set to start the journey.

Soon I realized that I had a very vague idea of my goal, unlike to what the speaker in the seminar has suggested.  Though, I realized that engineering was not to my liking, I was unsure about my PG. The only thing which I knew was that I had to improve on my English.

A long passage of time has passed since then; I have done my MBA and I have achieved few significant possessions – the blessings and the love of people. But…

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Cracking SBI PO Mains

indexThe second and most crucial round of the SBI PO exam is round the corner. The main aim of this article is to help students to prepare for this round.

First let us understand the exam pattern.

About the Exam: The objective exam will have four sections of 50 marks each, as per SBI notification. The sections are:

a) English Language (Grammar, Vocabulary, Comprehension etc.)
b) General Awareness, Marketing &Computers
c) Data Analysis & Interpretation
d) Reasoning (High Level)

Let me now deal with the agenda. Moving ahead, I have answered few frequently asked questions and also provided guidelines on preparation for the exam.

What is more important speed or accuracy? SBI PO, foremost is the test of speed. That does not mean that accuracy is not important. But to have a chance of clearing the overall cut off, the number of attempts need to be decent and for that calculated risk (Marking an option after making an intelligent guess or after eliminating two options) has to be taken. So, I suggest that you should approach the exam with an aggressive mindset to see all the 200 questions and attempt all those questions for which you are more than 50% sure.

What would be a decent attempt or a decent score? This is the most difficult thing to suggest. Both the things can only be judged on the spot once the question paper is in hand. I suggest that one should focus on the preparation rather than worrying about attempts and cut offs. Prepare well, make a sound test taking strategy and go with a positive attitude.

How to prepare for the sections? The next 10-14 days are the most critical phase of this entire SBI PO exam journey. Your entire focus should revolve around how to make full use of these days left for the exam. Here are my suggestions:

a. For Data Interpretation: This section is going to be a differentiator- a section which could make or mar your chance. The DI sets could be calculation intensive. You should focus on improving your calculation speed. Besides solving previous SBI PO papers, for practise, I suggest to solve DI caselets asked in CAT exam (year 1990 to 2000). The moderate level DI questions could be of this level. To practise calculation intensive DI set, I suggest to solve previous 5 year papers of IIFT (IIFT is an entrance exam of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade). These should be sufficient.

Now, why I am saying that DI would be a differentiator? Because most of the students think of DI as a time consuming section and their mere focus is on clearing the cut off. But then most of the students will not make it to the next round. So, if you wish to differentiate yourself then prepare for DI.

Remember, DI caselets difficulty level can be judged in a minute, unlike LR caselets. And that makes your job of seeing all the 50 questions of this section easy.

b. For Logical Reasoning: Everybody or shall I say majority, feels comfortable about this section. The problem with this section is that it is a double edged sword, if you crack a caselet you get 5 answers correct, but if are unable to crack it then you end up wasting time. SBI has clearly mentioned that the questions in this section will be of high level, and so the risk with the section also increases.

For preparation, I suggest to pick the areas and make them solid. Syllogisms are must attempt as they can be solved quickly. So practise syllogism. At least one question on circular seating arrangement will definitely be asked, so practise this part. Input Output sequencing questions will also be asked. Once again I suggest solving previous year SBI PO papers and CAT papers (1990 to 2004) for practise.

As a general observation, if you are finding this section easy then majority will also find it easy. Also, most people will think of scoring well in this section. So, you need to be competent enough.

c. For English: The easiest and the most neglected part of this section are RC passages. And because they are neglected, they will be the differentiator. Your aim should be to attempt both the RCs (I assume two RCs will be asked) in the exam. The parajumbles and cloze test are also easy and should be attempted. Grammar can be bit tricky. At this juncture, solving previous SBI PO exam papers should be sufficient for the preparation.

The good part about this section is that it is less time consuming. And the bad part is that it often is subjective and accuracy may suffer. But I suggest to focus on the good part and to attempt 30-35 questions.

d. For GA/Marketing/Computers: When it comes to GA, be thorough with the happenings of the last 3 months. The questions from computers and marketing are of very elementary level and being aware about the basic terms will be sufficient. Of course previous year papers will give you an idea about the level of questions being asked.

The best part of this section is that it can be finished in 10 minutes and hence it should be attempted first.

Is writing Mock Test important? Yes, very important. Before the actual exam, you should daily write one test and do a proper analysis of the test. This will help you to strategise your examination day approach. Half the students lose even after good preparation because they do not have proper strategy for the exam and hence they end up mismanaging their time.

What should be the order in which to attempt the sections in the test? You should be very clear with the approach to the exam. I suggest you to strictly follow the order of attempt and time allotment which you have decided for yourself; else your time management will go haywire.

My suggested order of attempt for the sections is:

Order Section Time Management
1. GA/Marketing/Computer 10 mins
2. English 25 mins
3. Logical Reasoning 40 mins
4. DI 45 mins

 

Prepare well, Take mock test, analysis and strategise for the exam.

Book Review: Lord of the Flies

Lord of the flies is regarded as one of the best English novel, and for most part of the book I wondered why!!  Written by Nobel Prize winner, William Golding, the book presents a story which explores the two competing attitudes inside the human beings.  The book fails in many aspects, foremost aspect being the coherence.  There are good things too, but they are few and far.

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  1. The Plot: A group of school boys lands in an uninhabited island due to a plane crash. The boys, in their own childlike manner they try to establish rules to govern themselves but then the lack of resources leads to the awakening of that villainous and barbaric spirit which resides inside the humans and the result is savagery!!  The plot may seem interesting, but its flow and its development are dull.  Far too often the writer has described the events or symbols which do not gel with the plot.
  1. The Theme: The main theme of the novel is civilization vs. savagery.  The formation of a group, ego clashes between the two leaders and the deterioration of the group are the real world happenings which author has attempted to capture, but the attempt does not have much impact.  The renegading of children from civilized to unruly group, though irrational, is real – as in real world too, the renegades do renegade blindly rather than rationally.
  1. The Characters: All the characters in the book are kids.  Ralph and Jack are the two main characters and for me neither is interesting.  Good characters need to communicate with the readers so as to have a lasting impression and none of the characters of this book are able to arouse any emotion. The only exception, perhaps, being Piggy, a fat but logical child, who is the center of the fun and joke of the others and whose glasses play an important role in the book.
  1. The Language: The descriptions of the savaged boys killing a Pig as the hunt and then their killing of an apparent ghost are excellent. But apart from that there is nothing much. The author is verbose at many places and the narration can be skipped.  Overall, the reading is boring.

The book has its theme as the only good part, but the story, its development and the characters are not impacting.

More:

Books To Read For Beginners

Fiction: https://enlightenedsid.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/suggested-book-reads-for-a-beginner-fiction/

Non- Fiction: https://enlightenedsid.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/suggested-read-for-beginners-ii-non-fiction/

Other Book Reviews:

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