A walk in Longwood

After staying home for months, a search for a good bagel led us to the Longwood area in Boston.

Longwood is an amazing medical community in the Boston area that includes Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Joslin Diabetes Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Mass Mental Health Center, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This area has seen medical advances ranging from the first ever organ transplant to a heart surgery on a fetus while still in the womb. https://www.statnews.com/2015/12/21/longwood-medical-area/

A hundred years ago, this area had marshes and cows that supplied milk to the Children’s hospital. Now, thanks to the Emerald Necklace designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the densely populated area still enjoys lovely greenery.

After staying home for months, even this small outing seemed perfect. The sunshine, the greenery and even the sultry weather was soothing to the soul.

As we picked up our bagels, a kind employee walked out with a bowl of water for Zac, who thanked the man with a warm nuzzle.

By the book..Bad Blood

Bad Blood, the gripping tale of Theranos, proves that fact is often stranger than fiction. Charismatic characters, greed, and drama all come together in this exciting book. Much has been written about this book, about Silicon Valley’s blind love for its CEO and all the drama that followed. I was in awe of the author John Carreyrou and the Wall Street Journal for pursuing this story.

John Carreyrou’s relentless reporting shines a light on the continued importance of investigative journalism. Reduced budgets and the ever-shortening news cycle have made it difficult for newspapers and magazines to pursue investigative journalism. Publications like the Wall Street Journal that stand behind their investigative reporters provide a service that is much needed in our world today.

When you think about the whole process, from the first tip to news in print, it is a long road. It takes hours of research, vetting different kinds of sources and winning their confidence. If an investigative reporter is lucky, he finds good sources. At any point a source can fall through, destroying months of hard work. Intimidation in the form of threats and lawsuits are commonplace.

I was so inspired by the ideals of investigative journalism that I recently watched Spotlight and The Post. For those of you who want to read about investigative stories over the years, here’s the link on the Pulitzer page.

In praise of audiobooks

I’ve fallen in love with audiobooks. I no longer feel like I am cheating on ‘real’ books when I listen to them. While I walk my dog, load the laundry, unload the dishwasher, or fold clothes, I enjoy losing myself in the stories.

My recent indulgence has been listening to memoirs and autobiographies of celebrities, and for no particular reason they turned out to be three funny, smart women. I listened to Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler tell me about their lives in their own words and voices. Each of them came from diverse backgrounds but succeeded in the same arena. They are all such good writers and performers. I learned about their lives and laughed aloud with them, relishing my temporary escape from the lockdown.

Writing a memoir is probably one of the toughest things to do. You have to be honest since there is no room for fictionalizing things just because you are uncomfortable about something. A memoir is not just about the person writing it; it involves other people in their lives. Many memoir writers probably omit certain topics that are too personal and painful.

One memoir that hasn’t omitted anything is Demi Moore’s Inside Out. As I recall, Demi Moore and Julia Roberts were two Hollywood stars that walked alongside the men in their industry, commanding and receiving huge paychecks. Listening to Demi’s candid story in her own words–on her fame, fairytale romance and path downhill–was revealing and moving. The voice of the whole memoir is candid and raw. Kudos to Ariel Levy, a staff writer for the New Yorker who helped Moore tell her story.

The next audiobook on my list is The Brothers Karamazov. The baritone voice in an English accent keeps me entertained as I become familiar with Dmitri, Alyosha, Grushenka and all the other characters.

By the book….A Gentleman in Moscow

As I started to read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I was immediately reminded of the children’s book Eloise. Eloise and her adventures in New York’s luxurious Plaza Hotel were fun to read because the premise was so fascinating–a little girl living in a hotel in a large city.

Unlike Eloise who was free to go out with an adult, Count Rostov, the main character in A Gentleman in Moscow is required to stay in Hotel Metropol under house arrest. Deemed a ‘former person,’ he is sentenced to life indoors. It was probably an odd book to read at a time when most of us around the world have been reduced to staying home by a virus. Well, that’s a topic for another blog.

My fear that the Count would be a pompous aristocratic man quickly subsided. On the contrary, I found Count Rostov to be an endearing man in whose company I learned about Russia, its history and interesting things like which wine pairs well with a Latvian Stew. I became invested in Count Rostov’s life and his friendships. At a time when the world feels so harsh, the scenes in the book were my escape to a place where manners and kindness still exist.

Towles’s delicate descriptions and observations — “Fatima knew a flower’s fragrance, color, and purpose better than a bee”  and “one can revisit the past quite pleasantly, as long as one does so expecting nearly every aspect of it to have changed”– led me into a far away world.

I hope my travels take me to Moscow and the Metropol some day. I will think of Count Rostov while I sit in the Chaliapin or order something at the Boyarsky. Until then, I plan to enjoy other things Russian that the Count lists for us — Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Tchaikovsky.

http://www.amortowles.com

https://theplazany/eloise

Stories Set in Stone

Imagine being transported to the 12th Century AD. Into a beautiful temple complex built on star-shaped elevated platforms, amidst spacious and well-maintained gardens. Sculptors busy at work, carving exceptional stories on single stones while their apprentices bring in finished filigree sculptures from studios. Trained artists, through their incredible work, bringing to life entire stories from mythology, from the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. The artists probably also drew inspiration from keen observation of people and objects, from travelers’ stories and from imagination.

Belur, the first capital of the Hoysalas and Halebidu which was later established as the capital, transport us back some eight centuries in time. When people came together in these grand temples in reverence but also in celebration of their culture, dance, music, and social occasions. All of these arts flourished with royal patronage.

Today, multi-lingual and knowledgable guides walk tourists around, shining a mirror to highlight figures, bringing them to life. These stories transported us to that ancient time. Stories about Rama giving his royal ring to Hanuman, Lord Narasimha destroying Hiranyakashapu, Vaali and Sugreeva’s battle, and Krishna lifting the Govardhana mountain are all depicted in minute detail.

Beautiful women, a central theme in the temple complex, are depicted everywhere. You can see them dancing, combing their hair, admiring themselves in mirrors, and donning fashion-forward hairstyles. Women clearly played an important part in society.

The stories also depict an advanced time in science, technology and fashion. Magistrates are depicted in long coats and wigs. Some men wear close-cropped French beards, while some women dress in high-heeled shoes holding hand fans. A man is shown peering through what appears to be a telescope.

A time and kingdom that was flourishing, until the invaders came.

A walk in the park

After a cup of aromatic coffee at Maiya’s restaurant, the flavor still lingering, I walk along the side streets of Jayanagar. Since the planners laid the foundation in 1948, this community has survived enormous growth and an influx of residents. Small single family homes have been converted to large structures with tall compound walls to keep away burglars.

Amidst the crazy traffic woes and pollution, the old parks of Jayanagar provide a haven, a reminder of the old peaceful city.

Parks in Bangalore become a nature preserve, a recreation center, an outdoor yoga studio, a playground and a place to connect with others and share stories. The parks are particularly a haven for the elderly. Women recovering from knee surgeries, diabetes patients, mothers who couple their salwar-kameez with sneakers, and brisk walkers who check their fitness apps, all coexist in the parks of Jayanagar.

An elderly woman with a smile on her face cuts pieces of grapefruit to share with other walkers, and one woman shares pictures of her grandchild’s birthday celebration. A group of men discuss upcoming trips by their children, discuss politics and share sweets.

With recent thefts and chain snatching incidents, walkers are wary of wearing gold jewelry or carrying cell phones early in the morning. Despite these negatives, people look forward to their gatherings at the parks. A place to make friends, share stories and build relationships with people of all ages.

On a walk to the park in the morning, the highlight is a visit to a nearby restaurant for a quick bite and a hot cup of coffee. Then, on to what the day brings..

By the book…Where the Crawdads Sing

When I first heard of the book “Where the Crawdads sing,” I did some research to figure out what the title meant and what the book was about. There was considerable critical acclaim for the book and also some criticism about all the hype. I decided to set all the reviews aside, and to read it because the setting seemed fascinating. Set between 1940 and 1970, the story takes place along the North Carolina coastline.

Crawdads made me feel I was taking a trip to a new, pristine and unexplored place.



Delia Owens, a zoologist, creates a captivating narrative and succeeds in bringing the marsh and its ecosystem to life. It wasn’t the romance or the mystery, but the landscape that held my attention. As I went along, I pictured myself on a visit to the marshland where crabs scuttle, gulls swoop down, and crayfish congregate. I was immersed in the world of shifting tides in a version of the Atlantic I hadn’t seen before. The myriad shells and feathers formed a familiar yet alien backdrop for this novel.

As I settled into this lush and quiet landscape, I identified with the little “marsh girl’ who builds a life for herself. All alone, hers is a story of grit, intelligence and survival. Crawdads is a fascinating book in which fiction sometimes sounds like non-fiction and prose sounds like poetry.

It is a story with substance that delves into relationships, kindness, the importance of family and how things change when everything is taken away.

https://www.deliaowens.com

Piecing it together

As you walk by ancient exhibits in a museum, there are many stories that greet you. Through myths and legends you learn about the ancient artifact. Each piece also has a backstory about how it was found, acquired and moved into the museum. It is amazing to learn how these neatly organized exhibits took years to come together.

At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), the statue of Osiris stands shrouded except for his arms and the noticeable knee caps. At the base, hieroglyphics tell us about this ancient Egyptian god of life and death. The statue’s epic journey to get here is an interesting story.

In Egyptian mythology, Osiris’ body was in pieces and scattered across the Nile by his jealous brother. Osiris’s wife bandaged it all together. This statue much like the myth, was in pieces. The Harvard-MFA expedition in Giza found the upper part in 1928. The lower part was found in France only in in the year 2000. (It had been taken to France by one of Napoleon’s generals.) Almost like in the story, Osiris was put together right here in Boston.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osiris

By the book…Little Fires Everywhere

I love to read books where the setting is so well-developed that the place feels like one of the characters. In Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng deftly weaves the setting before us and lets us picture the manicured lawns, well- maintained homes and it is not long before we feel the pride of the residents in their secure neighborhood. Perfect neighborhood, perfect lives and perfect children. Until we learn more about them.

There are many characters in the book and through the pages of the book, I understood them and sympathized with them long after I closed the book. I felt like I knew these characters well.

I was glad to read this book, to immerse in the pages and to understand the ripple effects that occur when something different enters a pristine American neighborhood .

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book and would love to hear about what you are reading.

Living in the moment

All my life, I have longed for the past, worried about the future and grudgingly enjoyed the current moment. I am trying to be more mindful as I accept things I cannot change. My dog Zac is such a shining example for me to emulate. He lives in the moment all the time. He is excited and grateful to eat the same food everyday. He greets my husband with a gift, even if it is his own shoe, every time he walks into the house.

We moved Zac 1000s of miles to a new country. From the day he landed here, he has walked along new paths, wagging his tail, sniffing new dogs and even when the aggressive ones leap at him, he just shakes his tail and moves on.