HydRAW 2022 MayReads

10 min readJun 10, 2022

Write-ups and book reads of our members in April, 2022.

A welcome increase in the books read in May. Hope this trend continues. Our default numero uno reader is Arun Kumar. It’s the second rank that varies. We have a new deputy this month, Fizza Younis with 15 books read! We’ve also got some nice write-ups this month.

Muralidharan Parthasarathy (on Transgenders in India — Achievers and Survivors — An Ode to transwomen) : In the 70s & 80s, Dr. Gariyali was very popular for her contribution in serving as Collector of Districts or other capacities for friendliness to the public and her commitment to her role. In this book she highlights the achievements and struggle and survival of the transgender persons she came across personally. In her childhood a transgender was married off compulsorily and she committed suicide and another successfully attained manhood by a surgery. One striking insight of the author is noteworthy; In many research works we find the British did more harm to the art and personal lives of Devadasis by applying European moral standards on them. In the same way. Gariyali finds British very cruelly blacklisted transgenders as a whole as perpetrators of crime and banned them from public life or recognition by common men. She feels that was the base for the continuing unfounded fear and hatred towards transgenders among the general public. From the early days of prophet Mohammed and till now the guards holy shrines of Islam have been partly or wholly from the transgenders. And in the Hindu religion their blessing of the newborn has been considered auspicious till date. But the western approach has been cruel and lacked empathy to their plight she records. She also revisits the epic Mahabharata on the plight of Shikandi, Draupadi’s brother who was a transgender and Aravaan who volunteered for the human sacrifice ahead of the war for Pandavas.
The authors have chosen the stories of a Bharatha Natyam exponent, journalist, first police officer, first advocate, engineer, theologian and pastor, two actors cum models, and four social workers who have founded institutions for the causes of transgenders. It’s very disturbing and shameful to find most of them were subjected to sex trade by closing all other doors. All of them were discarded by their families and others. Only the transgender community came forward to help. It is a miracle how the achievers in this book retained their sanity and fighting spirit against odds.
In the concluding part we find judiciary had to step in to give them recognition and their space in institutions and government organisations. We have a very long way to go towards inclusiveness and fairness for them. This a rare non fiction that disturbs equal to a realistic fiction.

Lavanya Nukavarapu (on To Kill a Mockingbird) : I have always wondered about the title but somehow did not show interest in reading the book until I was on a vacation and found this gem in my friend’s collection. I immediately committed myself to reading and once I started, I did not put it down.
Title: The novel’s title comes from a conversation between Atticus and Scout where Atticus states that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” because they simply sing their song and never harm others, representing innocence. The mockingbird is used as a symbol for Robinson, a coloured man, who is framed for rape by a white woman and her father. Despite the evidence, the word of a white woman wins against the word of the black man sending him to jail for a crime he did not commit. Later Robinson is shot dead in the prison.
Storyline: I also think that the title is also symbolic for any person who voices against the injustice on behalf of everyone who cannot do the right thing due to fear, biases or with confused moral standings. This is my second interpretation of the title where Atticus Finch despite the loathing from the white community stands rooted on his decision to defend the black man, Robinson.
The story is narrated though Scout, Atticus Finch’s daughter of her childhood experiences and the harsh realities or experiences that she and her brother had to undergo in a small town and thereby having a huge transformation in their character and personality.
Theme: There are several themes running parallel in the story and Author Harper Lee narrates them with warmth and humour. On one side we are repelled and disgusted about the very society we live in and on the other hand we take it with a pinch of humour realising there is a lot good in the society as well. The major theme is the racist and unjust society. One of the dialogues of Scout hits us hard. She questions why the very people who hate and condemn Hitler harness the same hatred day and night towards the coloured people. We see this everywhere, we condemn war, we condemn Hitler, yet we fester so much hatred within ourselves making us blind and not treating a fellow human being with dignity. The other strong theme is the moral grounding, which is expressed evocatively through the character, Atticus Finch. He is a role model, a person who understands what the real power is and explains humanity through his simple actions. Another theme that is all around us but never acknowledged or accepted is the shattering of perspectives. How often we have judged people based on their dressing, their inability to express themselves or just because they do not mingle with other people and stick to themselves. How often we have decided that the other person is bad and evil just because we do not know the whole picture. Harper Lee in her outstanding classic, puts this point strongly through the characters of the neighbours of the Finch.
Writing Style: Through lucid and simple narrative style, Harper Lee blends an element of humour and a sort of innocence in her sentences, there is a particular warmth and tenderness that touches the reader’s heart. This coming-of-age story written in first person narrative through Scout Finch, a ten year old girl, is fascinating and overwhelming at the same time. Lot of writer’s think that first person narrative is restrictive, on the contrary, I think, it is a powerful writing technique when used for the right story.
Overall the best read of 2022 so far and I would recommend this book to everyone for its sheer simplicity and the strong themes narrated in perfect balance.

Arun Kumar (on The Dictionary of Lost Words) : This book is about how dictionary evolved/prepared on the other hand a young girl’s interest in words, though she is interested in schooling. Later she finds that common people’s words are not entered in dictionary. Book also talks about English society and more. Interesting read.

(on The Little French Bookshop) : This is another book I enjoyed reading last month. It was written in French, I read the translation. Bookshop owner conducts letter writing workshop attended by people. Though set on modern times book deals with how letters change peoples lives. Well translated book.

Hari Arayammakul (on The Odd Book of Baby Names) : An extraordinary novel written in an innovative style. Humour & extreme sense of loss run in parallel track. 👌👍 The novel has a strong Hyderabadi connection.

Harshitha M R (on The Tall Lady With the Iceberg) : The book is about using metaphors to sell, explain and make effective speech. There are some tips, bad practices and how to build a metaphor muscle. It has many activities at the end of each chapter for hands on. It has large number of examples. The first edition of the book was called Metaphorically Selling. The second edition got renamed.

This is one metaphor I liked —

Fizza Younis (on Sad Cypress) : Sad Cypress is one of the lesser-known and not very famous of Agatha Christie’s works. She wrote the novel in 1940. At this point in her career, she had written a few non-mysteries. And this book is a combination of romance and murder mystery. Two genres that go together perfectly. It’s unlike her usual style and the story is told in three parts. In the first part, Elinor is accused of murdering Mary Gerard. In the second, Hercule enters the story and tries to solve the mystery behind Mary’s poisoning. The third part takes place in court, where finally the truth is revealed.
I think it is one of Christie’s more emotional works; overall a serious and sober story. Her main character ‘Elinor’ is a sad woman who is madly in love with a man, Roddy. But even then, she feels jealousy when he shows interest in Mary Gerard.
Then enters Hercule and here, too, the story is different from her other works because, instead of relying on solely on psychology, he does some real detective work. Talks to many people and investigates the crime scene. Ultimately, he reaches a conclusion that makes perfect sense. All the puzzle pieces fit perfectly into their places. Another thing that stands out, is that Hercule is not the main character of this mystery. Elinor is and he didn’t take our attention from her. Until the end, we are focused on her and her side of the story, which I thought was brilliant.
So, this might not be considered a masterpiece Agatha Christie is known for, but in my opinion, the book is no less interesting and the story no less clever.

Dhruva Nalla (on The Grapes of Wrath) : It’s about the difficulties faced by farmer family after they are driven out of their home in Oklahoma. The highlight of the book has to be the detailed description which keeps you hooked, even the minute details were not left behind, it gives a feeling of watching a movie or a painting. You could empathise with the character’s pain and feelings. The other good thing about the book is the slang, while some might feel it’s not necessary but the slang adds authenticity to the story. (For instance, Tolkien created a new language in Lord of rings which made the story feel real)

(on Delhi is Not Far) : This novel is about friendship between 3 people. Arun, a struggling Urdu writer, a young prostitute Kamla and an orphan Suraj. Bond uses Simple language to create the village atmosphere. He also manages to create compelling characters. The story is about friendship and also the hardships faced by these 3 characters. It’s a character driven story so there is no plot, its like a slice of life fiction. I liked the story very much. It’s a must read for those who like simple and realistic stories.

Nalini Dharanipragada (on the first five stories of The Complete Edgar Allan Poe) : My knowledge of Poe is limited to a couple of short stories in school and college. So reading them now is refreshing. Though his personal life was a shambles and he died young, as an early 19th century writer, his prose is remarkable. The first two stories deal with air balloon and an imaginary journey to the moon. The next two stories are about near death experience. Poe’s style is conventional, full of phrases and adjectives, where the modern reader will pause to understand. But that not hamper the smooth flow of the story line.

Manohar Grandhi (on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 7 Weeks) : This book discusses Acceptance and commitment Therapy. Act is based on the concept of psychological flexibility with seven concepts at the core. This book discusses all the concepts in detail and has a workbook on these concepts.

Muralidharan Parthasarathy

  • Transgenders in India — Achievers and Survivors — An Ode to transwomen by Dr. C.K.Gariyali IAS & Priyadharshini Rajkumar

Lavanya Nukavarapu

  • To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Arun Kumar

  • The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
  • It’s Time to Rhyme by Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan
  • Adventures in Reading by Ruskin Bond
  • Song of the Forest by Ruskin Bond
  • Single by Choice edited by Kalpana Sharma
  • Three Men in a Boat adapted in graphic form by Nidhi Verma
  • Ammachi’s Glasses by Priya Kuriyan
  • The Living Mountain by Amitav Ghosh
  • Saving the Dalai Lama’s Cranes by Neeraj Vagholikar
  • Land, Guns, Caste, Woman by Gita Ramaswamy
  • Granny’s Tree-climbing by Ruskin Bond
  • Letters to My Father by Ruskin Bond
  • The Great Indian Rope Trick by Ruskin Bond
  • All About My Walkabouts by Ruskin Bond
  • Legends of the Hill by Ruskin Bond
  • Boys Will be Boys by Ruskin Bond
  • The Boy in a Blue Pullover by Ruskin Bond
  • My School on the Hill by Ruskin Bond
  • Listen to Your Heart by Ruskin Bond
  • How to Live Your Life by Ruskin Bond
  • The Little French Bookshop by Cecile Pivot
  • Nakili Manishi translated by MVV Satyanarayana
  • Sanchari by Peddinti Ashok Kumar
  • Uriki Uppulam by Peddinti Ashok Kumar
  • Great Lives: Ruskin Bond by Shamim Padamsee
  • Tigers Forever by Ruskin Bond
  • Friends in Wild Places by Ruskin Bond
  • Dream Town by David Baldacci

Hari Arayammakul

  • The Odd Book of Baby Names by Anees Saleem

Harshitha M R

  • The Tall Lady With the Iceberg by Anne Miller

Fizza Younis

  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Agatha Christie
  • Wishtress by Nadine Brandes
  • Caught Witch Handed by Catherine Waltan
  • Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
  • Labour of Hercules (short stories) by Agatha Christie
  • It Takes a Villa by Kilby Blades
  • Hex and the Single Girl by Valerie Frankel
  • Pawsitively Mystery series by Melissa Erin Jackson
  • Black Mass Rising: A Graphic Novel by Theo Prasidis
  • Improper Relations by Janet Mullany
  • Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
  • One, Two Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
  • North Western by Jordan Elizabeth
  • Murder in Three Acts by Agatha Christie
  • A Triangle at Rhodes by Agatha Christie

Dhruva Nalla

  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Delhi is Not Far by Ruskin bond

Nalini Dharanipragada

  • The Complete Edgar Allan Poe (first five stories)

Manohar Grandhi

  • The Sleep Solution by Chris winters
  • Deep Sleep All Night, Every Night by Graeme Lehman
  • Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks by Barry McDonagh
  • How to Raise Your Vibration: 12 Simple Steps by Kate Healey
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 7 weeks by Carissa Gustafson

Mahboob Hussain

  • The Devotion of Suspect X by Kiego Higashino
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway
  • Strangers to Ourselves by Timothy Wilson
  • Reality+ by David Chalmers