Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Guru and his Disciple by Christopher Isherwood

Book Synopsis  (as per the back cover) 
In 1939, as Europe approaches war, the author Christopher Isherwood, an instinctive pacifist, travels west to California, seeking a new set of beliefs to replace the failed Leftism of the thirties. There he meets Swami Prabhavananda, a Hindu monk, who will become his spiritual guide for the next thirty-seven years. Late-night drinking sessions, free love, and the glamor of writing for the Hollywood studios alternate with meditation, abstinence and the study of religious texts in a compelling tug of war between worldliness and holiness.

Extract from the Introduction by Simon Callow
Quite aside from the insights the book may offer into the life of an aspiring adept, My Guru and His Disciple offers a double portrait of two strikingly different personalities who were powerfully drawn to each other: Isherwood - quintessentially English, restless, sexually driven, found of the bottle, the darling of the Hollywood cocktail circuit - and Prabhavananda former anti-British terrorist, chain-smoking, tolerant, tender, subtle, unselfconsciously profound. Isherwood immediately responded to something he perceived in Prabhavananda, a  sense of resolution, of centeredness, of joy; while Prabhavananda, to Isherwood's  frank astonishment, saw in him a potential monk.

The relationship between guru and disciple was without cloud, although Isherwood constantly felt he was failing Prabhavananda, not least when, after a couple of months, he gave up the attempt to live in Prabhavananda's Vedanta monastery in the Hollywood hills; but Prabhavananda was never less than understanding, always sympathetic.

In this regard the book is very unlike most classic accounts of the guru/disciple relationship.
 My Comments
A very interesting , frank and moving narrative. Though not a complete biography of Swami Prabhavananda, his character has been brought out very well.
Recommended for anyone interested in spiritual literature, though it may not go down too well with people with orthodox views.

Goodreads Rating - 3.94 out of 5 ( 116 Ratings)


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Brilliant Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Dr. Stephen Briers

Book Description (as in
Brilliant  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)  has been specially written to help give readers the insight, tools and confidence they need to understand and use CBT in their own lives.
It offers a cohesive approach to this groundbreaking therapeutic technique that unfolds in a wholly logical, accessible and practical manner whilst enabling the reader to personalize the information and apply it to their own unique situation. 
Written by an experienced and highly regarded clinical psychologist (Dr. Stephen Briers), Brilliant CBT has a conversational, accessible and personal tone which includes illustrative exercises, personality-style questionnaires and detailed checklists to provide all the information readers will need in a way they will find most simple and useful to put into practice.
 Brilliant CBT is the perfect guide for anybody who wants an effective grounding in the theory and range of practical tips and strategies designed to help them achieve authentic, lasting results when applying CBT to their own lives, or for anybody training to become a CBT practioner who wants an accessible, understandable and thorough introduction to the therapy.
Table of Contents
1 So what’s so brilliant about CBT?
2 First principles
3 Common thinking traps – and how to avoid them
4 Grappling with negative thinking
5 Using behaviour to change your mind
6 Mapping out your problems
7 Beating the blues
8 Conquering anxiety
9 Taming anger
10 Boosting self-esteem 
Goodreads Rating - 3.44 out of 5 ( 16 Ratings)


My Comments
A fairly decent introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

The book suggests some doable action items unlike some other personality development books which tell us to do somewhat impractical things. 
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Monday, January 13, 2014

A Journey Down Melody Lane by Raju Bharatan

The Hindi film music industry is more than 80 years old.
It has given us numerous evergreen melodies.
The author, Raju Bharatan is a veteran film journalist and historian who was a regular witness to the  conceptualization, evolution and release of several of these melodies. 

In this book he shares his personal experiences with the singers, music composers, lyricists, film directors and producers.
Some of the notable ones he discusses at length are Naushad,  Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Geeta Dutt, C. Ramachandra, Shankar-Jaikishan, Kalyanji -Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Vasant Desai, Talat Mehmood, R.D. Burman, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, A. R. Rahman, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Yash Chopra.

The book also talks about the ego clashes and politics behind the music making scenes which brings out the fact that the much revered musical geniuses were after all human beings with frailties of their own.

There are lots of  trivia interspersed in the book. 
Just to mention a few:
  •  Lata Mangeshkar was addicted to Wrigley’s chewing gum, loved wearing jeans, but never wore it outside her hotel room during concerts in America. 
  • Rafi was the original choice for the popular songs from the movie Aradhana, instead of Kishore Kumar;
  • The famous "Aye Mere Watan ke logon" song  was to be sung by both Lata Mangeshkar and her sister Asha Bhosle. But the lyricist Pradeep had not forgotten to inform the latter.
Almost all the melodious songs are based on classical ragas. The author provides the names of the underlying raga for most of the songs he mentions in this book. I like this approach because this information is helpful in recognizing a raga when it is being played in its pure form.

I bought  this book expecting it  to be an authoritative history of  Hindi film songs , which it is not.
Otherwise it is quite an informative and entertaining read for Hindi film music buffs.


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