Book Review: The Theory of Being

The Theory of Being: Systems science from a traditional Indian perspectiveThe Theory of Being: Systems science from a traditional Indian perspective by Srinath Srinivasa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a few books out there which can completely change how we think and model the world around us as well as ourself, and this book is one such book!

Most of us perceive the world and ourself in a machine hermeneutic way. It is discussed in detail in the first half of the book. Basically it is a mechanised design where everything is a component of the overarching system and performs its defined role. We may ourself not know how deeply such principles are ingrained in us, and affect our day to day decisions and actions!

In the second half of the book, a new model is introduced titled Theory of Being (as the title of the book). It completely contrasts from the machine hermeneutic way and looks at everything as a being. All the related terms and concepts are explained in detail and clearly distinguished from the usually believed meaning of those concepts. For example, most of us think that dharma means religion, but actually it doesn’t! Check the book to find out what dharma actually means! Overall, the theory is just mind-blowing! Once we understand it, it completely changes our point of view. It is elaborated how this theory can be used to rethink and redesign systems with suggested steps which can be taken in order to build sustainable systems. Finally, the book ends with an intriguing vision of how the future might look in both machine and being oriented worlds!

The core principles of the Theory of Being come from the Indic thought. However, if we pick a related scripture and read it, it is really hard to understand and more importantly difficult to relate. This book presents an interpretation of that Indic thought which is understandable and relatable to a person who has some basic knowledge of systems thinking, basic mathematics and game theory. Although even without this background knowledge, one can get a basic understanding of the concepts and ideas presented in the book. This book also shows how little we know and how superficial and flawed our knowledge is regarding our our own rich Indic systems and theories.

Also, this is one of those books, from which one can understand something new, every time it is reread! I have read some parts of this book multiple times and every time I got some new insights to ponder! Many lines lead to an aha moment! An amalgamation of the core theory along with lots of interesting examples, personal experiences and anecdotes, makes it an amazing read!

P.S.- I have had multiple insightful discussions on many concepts and ideas presented in this book with Prof. Srinath and these discussions have greatly helped me in understanding it with more clarity.

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Book Review: The Book Thief

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What a book! The book thief by Markus Zusak is a story of a 9 nine year old girl Liesel in Germany during the time of World War II. Strangely the book is narrated by ‘death’. Initially it sounds a bit strange and creepy to see the world from the eyes of death whose job is to collect the souls of the dead. This is what it had been doing since forever. It is tired of doing so and wants a break. But then there is no substitute of death.

I knew about the WWII partially. But this book presents the actual life of the common peasants during those time. One can feel and visualize the hardships faced by the people. Scarcity of basic necessities. Ill treatment of the Jews. Concentration camps. Marches and parades. Horror dreams of the survivors. Watching near and dear ones die in front of one’s own eyes. War times. Death describes how war was very difficult time for it, as it had to collect so many souls of the dead…

The story is about Liesel who is abandoned by her parents to a foster family as they are unable to take care of their children. On the way Liesel watches her brother die and this memory haunts her for a long time. Her foster mother is a short tempered, talkative woman. There is a very beautiful relationship between her foster father and her. He patiently teaches her to read and write, which plays a major role in her life ahead. He is like a pillar of strength and support for her. She is friends with a neighbourhood boy Rudy and they have great times together. Numerous happenings of her life are described like.. Her school life. Football games in the evenings. Helping her Mama in the daily chores. And food of her life – reading. Sometimes the story seems so normal just like a regular day.. But then suddenly there is bombing and war. Probably that’s how even our life is… most of the part is routine life filled with happy and sad times in between..

The main thing which keeps Liesel sane in difficult times is her love for books. Papa teaches her to read and write initially. The progress is slow. But Liesel loves reading and very soon picks up. Together they read the same book multiple times every night. Her passion for reading is so strong that she starts stealing books and is thus called a book thief. Later on she writes her own story in the form of book which ultimately saves her life during WWII. This book shows the power of words on individuals and masses.

The book is about 550 pages. All the charecters are describes so well that they almost come to life in our minds. There is not much of suspense as readers can foresee some of the events (mainly deaths). Still the overall story builds up nicely. I would recommend reading it in a day or two to get the complete feel of the narration. It will make one think about life, death, friendship, love, challenges, hardships, inspirations and much more. More importantly how to find and then hold on to ray of hope in grim times.

“The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this.”

Book Review – The Power Law of Information

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How many times have you read a non-fiction book and you were left amazed with reality ? Well, “The Power Law of Information” is one of those books. We are all so busy with the day-to-day happenings in our life that sometimes we fail to see how some things affect us so powerfully and literally change our lives. One of those things is “information”. 2.7 Zetabytes of data exists in the digital universe today and it is growing at a very fast rate. Earlier information was not available so easily and effortlessly.  But today the easy availability of information has transformed our lives. This book shows how the huge availability (and sometimes the unavailability) of information affects us in different ways.

The book has been written in lucid and easy-to-understand manner. For the technical people, there are mathematical equations and lots of graphs for a better and in-depth understanding. However the best thing which i liked was that, even if one is not familiar with the mathematical stuff, one can easily get the gist of what the author wants to convey. There are lots of practical, real life examples and anecdotes. There are some case studies to validate the point. All this makes the book an interesting read and an eye-opener about the impact of information in our life. This book can be specially useful for the people who are intrigued by the Internet, the world wide web, the social networks or about information in general

Earlier it was believed that information networks are similar to physical or material networks. However it is clearly shown here that information networks have unique and different properties like information can be reused, it can be easily replicated etc which are not found in the material network. Information follows the power law, i.e. a small number of entities have a high value and a large number of entities have a small value. It is such a unique and important property that it has its place in the title of the book. Information networks are non-linear since people in the network interact with each other and may be connected in loops. It is also friction-less since the feedback fully affects the information network. Studying and predicting outcomes in such networks can be extremely complex but that’s the way reality is !

In this book, ‘information’ has been analyzed from all the perspectives. Firstly information itself and its properties and how it affects us is discussed. Various parameters which affect information and different ways to model information are studied. Also how we as humans can make beneficial use of this information despite our fallacies, biases and bounded rationality makes an interesting read. Other social factors like herd mentality and satisficing behavior are analyzed with some interesting examples. Money is also in some sense, information. The book concludes on the topic how money affects the world. There is a detailed bibliography and further reading for the interested readers. Overall it’s an amazing book filled with lots of practical examples and a great read over the weekend.

Book Review – Half a Rupee Stories

Half-a-Rupee-Stories-by-Gulzar

Half a Rupee Stories is a book written by Gulzar and translated by Sunjoy Shekhar. If you have ever heard a song written by Gulzar then i am sure you must be his fan ! He is a world renowned poet, lyricist and director. The language used by him is simple and easy to understand and most of all it has the power to touch the heart.

Half a Rupee Stories is a collection of 25 short stories. I will say that it is a collection of 25 gems. Each story touches the heart and leaves a message for the soul. It has real life lessons learned after years of experience. Some stories are filled with suspense and thrill while others highlight the various issues faced in life in a unique way. It has real life stories of Javed Akthar (his nick-name is Jaadu :)), Sahir Ludhianvi and Kuldip Nayyar. Many locations of the stories are located around the border regions. There are also some stories of  Mumbai. The best thing which i liked about this book is that it shows us how to find a bigger and higher meaning from our daily experiences. It shows how to look at life from a broader perspective. Thus i will say that this book is a must-read !

All the stories in a line –

  1. A story based of faith, trust and miracle.
  2. How 100 rupees changed someone’s life !
  3. A story of friendship.
  4. A story of slum for the perspective of the people living there.
  5. Rain and flood.
  6. A boat-cleaner can also be a king.
  7. A glimpse of the life of the people who live on the footpath.
  8. Connection across LoC.
  9. “Over”
  10. All for a ram fight !
  11. Hilsa fish and the newspaper headline.
  12. How wars affect lives and souls !
  13. Story from paradise-Kashmir.
  14. A freedom fighter’s life.
  15. A swayamwar.
  16. “Half a Rupee”
  17. God is a superman.
  18. Love story between a bird and a kite.
  19. Lessons from an orange.
  20. Earthquake.
  21. Shortcut, an accident, fate.
  22. The biggest pickpocket.
  23. Grandparents love.
  24. Grandpa’s love for grandchild.
  25. The transformation.

Book Review – The Fountainhead

Since a long time i was planning to read The Fountainhead. But my final semester exams, the thickness of the book and its small font prevented me from reading it earlier 🙂

But it was worth the wait. It is an awesome book. Ayn Rand the author has described all the characters of the book to such a minute detail that they literally come alive in front of the eyes.  It is a 1943 novel but almost all the scenarios described in it are valid even today. It is a bestseller and millions of copies have been sold all over the world in many languages. The book is mainly based on the life of two architects who compete, struggle and fight with each other to get success, money and recognition.

I specially loved the character of Howard Roark who maintains his individualism till any extent. He gives a speech in the end which is superb. Roark is an example of the type of person, a person should. Thus we can say that he is an ideal. His friend and college mate Peter is the opposite of him. He can fall to any extent to see himself good in others’ eyes. A term which i liked in this regard which has been coined in this book is second-hander i.e. a person who does everything to please others and is nothing by himself. Dominique’s speech in the courtroom again makes an awesome read.

This book has been added to my favorites 🙂 I just could not leave it once i started reading it. All the human sentiments from love, anger, revenge, jealousy, sacrifice … are filled in this book. Do read it when you get time. Its amazing ! I finally got how a bestseller should be 😀

Book Review – Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love is a true story of Elizabeth Gilbert or ‘Liz’. This book motivates us to face all the challenges of life boldly, not to give up, to listen to one’s heart and most importantly to make ourselves content and happy. The book has been written in a very beautiful way. No doubt it is a bestseller.

Liz is married and has everything in life one can dream of. But she is not happy. So after struggling a lot she ends her marriage. After divorce she is filled with sorrow. She can’t see what is happening in her life. And thus she goes into depression. It is one of the most difficult phase of her life. She loses a lot of weight and thinks of self-destruction. Finally she realizes that no one else can make her happy. So she will have to make the efforts herself.

She always wished to learn Italian language. It had no specific reason but she just wanted because she liked it. Secondly through a friend she came to know about a spiritual guru whom she made her guru. She wanted to visit her ashram in India. Finally a few years back a medicine man had read her hand and told her that she would come back to Indonesia and he would teach her everything.

108 is considered to be a good number. So this book has 108 chapters. The book is divided into three parts each of 36 chapters. So Liz decided to take a one year break and spend 4 months each in Italy, India and Indonesia (3 I’s).

EAT
This part describes her stay in Italy. She learns Italian from a person there and teaches him English. She has a great time in Italy. She make a lot of friends. She spends most of the time eating 🙂 in Italy. Every day she visits new restaurants and enjoys a variety of sumptuous food like pizza and pastries etc. Slowly she starts feeling good and regains the lost weight.

PRAY
The next part of the story leads to India. She stays in an ashram near Mumbai. She learns meditation. In the beginning it is very difficult for her to meditate and concentrate. But slowly she learns everything. She discovers tranquility and peace within herself.

LOVE
The last part leads to Indonesia. There she again meet the medicine man. She helps a lady to buy a house for herself by asking all her friends to contribute. And finally she finds love again. She meets Felipe and both fall in love with each other. Since both are divorced they are not ready to marry immediately however both are ready to lead a happy life together.

To know more what happened after Eat Pray Love the author has written the book Committed. Overall EPL is a good book. You will enjoy reading it. And at some points you can easily relate with Liz. Happy Reading 🙂

Here’s the trailer of the Eat Pray Love movie –

 

Book Review – The Immortals of Meluha

It’s a page turner. If you have even have a little bit idea about the Indian mythology then you will surely enjoy it. Otherwise also it is good. Although i don’t judge a book from its cover, but its cover is impressive as the content itself. It very well depicts Lord Shiva with the strong well-built body, Trishul his weapon, his matted tresses, the string of Rudraksh beads on his hand and finally the backdrop of the mountain Kailash across the Mansarovar.

It is the story of Lord Shiva. His power, his strength, this courage, his sheer brilliance, everything is clearly portrayed by the author. The best thing that i found about this book is that i could actually visualize the complete narration (mostly i can do it :)). Another good characteristic about this book is that is has every emotion from thrill, love, adventure to suspense in the correct amount.

This book shows how a common man “Shiva” inspires and motivates the people and thus becomes their “Mahadev”. People have more trust in him than he has in himself. But he is able to live up to their expectations. The Indus valley civilization has been portrayed in an excellent way in the book. We can easily imagine the perfect society which existed thousands of years before the present day.

But the story does not end here with this book although a major phase is completed. It is continued in the second book by the same author titled “The secret of the Nagas“. Now i am eagerly waiting for some free time to read this book as well ! 🙂 I will add its review when i read it. I hope it will be as good as or better than this one 🙂