Book Review: Naked Determination by Gisela Hausmann

Not everyone lives a life worth writing about, but the author certainly did. At a very young age, she discovered that travelling was her passion and spent most of her life living her passion.  This book, however, is not just about her travel experiences. It’s most importantly about the instances in her life where she overcame fear with determination. I believe that every Indian woman should read this book. It’d be inspiring to read about a woman, who, against all odds, traveled 47 different countries, faced great recession, held several jobs ranging from director’s assistant in movies to a boring 8to5 job in order to support her children as a single parent, and finally wrote a book about the lessons she had learnt along the way.

This book is divided into 41 stories, with a takeaway at the end of each story. I particularly liked this clever way of making readers remember important points in the book. This is not a self-help book, however. It’s an autobiographical account of the author, which makes the lessons even more valuable, because it reminds me of the quote, ‘Practice before you preach.’ She herself applied all the principles to her life and experienced success, and now she wants to share her stories with the world, to inspire at least a few people.

The book starts with an inspiring note: “Yes—You can start over, every single day”. Every sunrise offers us an opportunity to start our life over, and it’s up to us whether we grab it or not. The author sank into depression after the premature death of her husband and was in desperate need of inspiration to start her life all over. That was when she took courage in the fact that she had done awesome things in the past, and when she could do those things then, she could do it again. I liked all of the stories, not just the first. Here’s a woman who traveled round the world, achieved some great things, and yet the tone of the book is never preachy. That’s where the beauty of the book lies.

When we read a collection of stories, it generally happens that some stories stand out among others. It’s perhaps because we can relate to them. Some of the stories I liked and why:

1. In the story “Knowing you destination”, the author says that the earliest desires are untainted by secondary thoughts. They represent what we really want and can accomplish if we set our mind on it. I could relate to this so well. When I first visited Hyderabad as a kid, I instantly knew that it was where I wanted to be— In a big city (Well, it was a big city to me then). Even now I often wonder if it’s just a coincidence that I happened to study there or was it my strong desire that guided me.

2. The story “The guts to ask” is worth remembering. If I think about it deeply, it is really true. Sometimes, we might get what we want just by asking.

3. I liked the lesson of the story “Smile”. It’s true that our mood travels through the phone line even. Unconsciously we can detect if a person at the other end of a phone is cheerful or irritable and we respond in the same vein.

4. If I could truly relate to one story, it was “Don’t ask the devil’s advocate”. It had an interesting line “It is deeply human to ask others for their opinion and/or support, but really most often we would like to hear an enforcement of our own opinions”. So true.

5. The next story “My case for affairs” is interesting as well, particularly the Casablanca principle. “Not every relationship is meant to last a lifetime”. If only humans can understand that and move on.

6. If there’s one story I want everyone one to follow that’s “Give credit where credit is due.” Often, we see people claiming the credit of others. We need to put ourselves in the place of the other person and give credit where credit is due.

7. And lastly, I liked “What do we really need?” not only because it’s set in Kashmir, but also because of the thought provoking takeaway at the end.

I could go on and on about the lessons at the end of each story, but then I’d revealing too much. I see that I’ve already written a lot about the book. One has to read it to truly understand the essence of the book. It is one book I’d heartily recommend to anyone in need of inspiration. Give it a try…

Book Review: Once Smitten, Twice Shy, Thrice Lucky by Sandeep Kothapalli

You know that satisfied feeling you get when you see 'The End' card in a feel-good movie? That's the feeling you get after reading this book. We know the characters, we feel for them, thanks to the little glimpses into their lives the author provides in between, and when we leave them, we feel sad that the book is already over and satisfied that all the characters had a bittersweet ending.

The plot is predictable from the title itself: the protagonist Varun talks about three relationships in his life. So, what's so new about it? Everybody falls in and out of love, several times in their lives. There's no need to write a book about it. But Varun is no ordinary guy. He's an academic topper and an emotional sissy, in his own words. He cracks CAT and makes it into IIMA, the top business school, but that doesn't stop him from failing miserably in love. If Varun had let his love failure consume his life, we wouldn't be reading a book about him. He moves on from his past relationships, takes a courageous decision of going into journalism after doing MBA and falls in love again, this time with the love of his life. And the story doesn't stop here. We see him risking his life to see his wife truly and completely happy. We see a loving brother, a responsible son, a true friend, a good citizen, and a supporting husband in Varun. When I say Varun moves on from his past relationships, he doesn't hate them, or burn their photos like they do in the movies, but accepts his past and remains friends with them. Now that's truly unique and admirable.

The book shouldn't be read in a hurry to finish. Take your time, read it slowly, and you can see the way the author connects several subplots into a big plot. You travel down the memory lane, especially if you can relate to the time frame of the book, and you remember how girls used to swoon over Hrithik, and how Yahoo messenger used to be the only option to chat, and emails were still a novelty, and how watching that first movie on the IMAX screen was an unbelievable experience.

We catch glimpses of the lives of Vishu, Nancy, Lahari, Sasha, Rekha, Satish and understand how love affected their lives. They are all ordinary human beings, they make their choices, sometimes wrong, and their lives inevitably change because of their choices.We can draw inspiration from some characters: for instance from Nancy, how she bravely accepts her unacceptable fate, from Lahari, who I think faces ups and downs in the most ideal way, and from Sasha, who, being a little girl, faces her death courageously, and from Rekha and Satish, who stand up to their orthodox parents and finally win in their love.

The plots meanders at some places, but catches up in some other places, but keeps the audience engaged throughout. I don't want to reveal too much of plot here. There are some great themes and characters in the book if you think deeply about it. Admittedly, it's a bit lengthy book, which takes time to finish. But pick it up if you want to read a contemporary romance without boring yourself with the cheesy bits. It's a debut book by the author, and I'm sure I can expect more wonderful reads in future. My rating 4/5.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"I'm not only married to Lahari, but also to everything about her Past, Present and Future"

"When in doubt, listen to your heart, always!'

"You can't clap with a single hand. The same goes with relationships. You can't blame the other for a relationship gone awry."