Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
The most important spiritually unifying volume of the year is disguised as an "international bestseller" on garish display in the travel writing section of airport bookstores. Radio DJ and political correspondent Sarah Macdonald fulfills a toilet cleaner's prophesy by landing in her personal hell – Delhi – and winds up staying for two years while her journalist partner covers all the issues, large and small, which affect Hindustan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Shocked by leering bachelors and pestilence, and shaken by earthquakes, her life in India takes a turn for the worse when she nearly loses it to double pneumonia. After her recovery, and with her partner increasingly absent, Sarah looks for ways to integrate herself into the society with which she shares a relationship of mutual disapproval. Whether out of boredom or simply rooting for material, she attends a ten-day meditation course, and before long the former atheist has let go of her ego and is carried by curiosity and chance to pilgrimages and spiritual seminars of every stripe. Mingling with Muslims and Sufis, Zoroastrians and Parsis, Buddhists and Jains, the Dalai Lama and other gurus, Hindus of every stripe, "the cool Kaballah crowd," and even Christians, Sarah is transformed into a spiritual being who isn't faithful to any religion, but lives by principals from all of them.
The most surprising element of this book is the high level of fun. I expected a 300-page complaint about India's pollution and unpredictability, combined with a caricature of wobbly heads and eccentric ways. So I was surprised by the lightness and humor on every page, and tickled as Sarah more and more embraces the peoples and cultures of the world's most colorful Republic. Macdonald has performed the feat of writing about such weighty figures as Mohandas Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, and Jesus while drawing loud laughs out of me, in her well-balanced and elegantly written memoirs.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri's novel on the nature of identity delicately traces the life of a Bengali boy from New Jersey, born to parents who had left everything behind to build a life in America. Nicknamed after events from his father's youthful brush with death, Gogol Ganguli was to receive his good name by post from his grandmother in Calcutta. But when the name is lost in the mail and his grandmother suffers a stroke, the nickname sticks, and Gogol's identity becomes wrapped up with the eccentric author's. Desperate to escape the shame of his name as well as the embarrassment of his family's lifestyle, he has his name legally changed.
With his new identity comes new freedom and a new life, and Gogol successfully maintains the separation between his old and new selves, until a tragedy inspires Gogol to return home and vainly try to construct for himself the life his parents imagined for him – even marrying a Bengali named Moushimi Mazoomdar. What he doesn't count on is Moushimi's having a similar crisis, or on the entrance into their lives of a sexy scholar with a compelling name – Dimitri Desjardins.
While the primary theme is identity, this story also looks at the accidental nature of the events which shape us, at the challenge of the individual pursuit of happiness, and at the preciousness of each moment we live. Lahiri has crafted a sensitive portrayal of each of the figures who shape the protagonist's self and guided the reader glidingly through the events of his life, in a water colored odyssey of restlessness, rebellion, and maturity.
..Now here's Brisbane!
Aisha, Tulsa, and Tenille at the casino where I made a $10 profit
Brisbane's sparkling skyline
Everything bright on a winter night
Bundled-up Chu-hi with Brisbane locals