Category Archives: Books

Serendipity in the Himalaya

Published / by Jehangir

After a lifetime of travel guided by Lonely Planet, I casually picked up a used copy of a Bradt travel guide at a second-hand bookshop in Ladakh.

In harmony with the mystical Himalaya, serendipity awaited in the natural history section of the book.

The timing too was perfect because my younger nephew was wondering whether his cousins were pulling his leg about the Birds of Kashmir website being a family effort.

The book itself is a highly competent travel guide to Kashmir & Ladakh. Here is an excerpt from the Bradt website:

Standing on the veranda looking down across Dal and Nagin lakes with Hari Parbat peeking up through the mist, the sunlight glinting on the water as a solitary shikara paddles by, brings a lump to your throat. If there is heaven on earth, can it be anywhere else but here?

It may be a cliché, but there’s something in Jammu and Kashmir for everyone. You can marvel at the views from the roof of the world at Khardung La, staring down on mountain peaks and glaciers; stroll through the Eden-like Shalimar Gardens, inspired by the Qu’ranic image of paradise; take a shikara ride with your own Kashmiri gondolier through the lotus-bedecked lakes of Srinagar; and join the Buddhist monks at Thiksey Monastery for early morning prayers or meditation by candlelight.

Adrenalin junkies can scale unclimbed peaks, trek along frozen rivers, heli ski at Gulmarg, raft on the mighty Indus River or paraglide above the forests and slopes of Pahalgam; holiday makers looking for a more relaxing time can read and watch the world go by from the veranda of a cedar-wood houseboat, learn yoga, shop for carpets and pashminas and indulge in all manner of culinary delights.

Encompassing a vast stretch of land from the lush Kashmir Valley in the west, to the striking mountains and epic wilderness of Ladakh and Zanskar, the area now covered by the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has long astounded visitors with its beauty. It was the favourite destination of Mughal kings, British bureaucrats and tourists overlanding along on the hippie trail: they proclaimed it heaven on earth, and we’re rather inclined to agree.

Enjoy!

Agreeing with The Four Agreements

Published / by Jehangir

Don Miguel Ruiz is a qualified surgeon who apparently turned to spirituality after a near-fatal car crash. I have not read any books by this ‘New Age Guru’ but it is hard to argue with the universality of his Four Agreements.

1. BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

a. Speak with integrity.

b. Say only what you mean.

c. Avoid using your word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.

d. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY

a. Nothing others do is because of you.

b. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.

c. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS

a. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.

b. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.

c. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST

a. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.

b. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Don Miguel Ruiz’s son, Don Jose Ruiz, has subsequently released a sequel with his father, ‘The Fifth Agreement’, which adds a further agreement.

5. BE SKEPTICAL, BUT LEARN TO LISTEN.


My Favourite Books of 2017

Published / by Jehangir

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

We of the east cannot fathom why westerners have forsaken religion. Read this book.

A History of the World in 1000 Objects [DK/Smithsonian]

The intro starts off with this line – ‘There is something magical about the survival of human-made objects from the past.’ History leaping out from the pages is the real magic of this book.

The Red House Mystery [A.A.Milne]

An Agatha-Christie-worthy whodunit from – would you believe it – the creator of Winnie the Pooh.

Two real disappointments this year were Exit West – with one of my favourite authors Mohsin Hamid [Moth Smoke/The Reluctant Fundamentalist] not quite able to pull off magical realism – and Artemis by Andy Weir [The Martian].

Note: These are my favourites among all the books I have read in 2017, not published in that year 😉