Saturday, April 16, 2016

“Sunny Side Up” – Reflections on Anu Hasan’s book

I remember a conversation with my writing instructor Ed Barr wherein he told me that if I can be “authentic” and “honest” when recollecting my real life experiences (in the case of non-fiction) or channeling them (in the case of fiction), then there’s a strong chance that there are enough people that have had similar experiences that I would not have to worry about the material resonating with people.  Mr. Barr’s words came back to me like a flash when I found myself completely engrossed while reading Anu Hasan’s book “Sunny Side Up.”  In one of the chapters of the book titled “Anger, Impatience and Me”, Anu writes, “Every time I lose my temper, I feel as though I have lost a battle.  Then again, each time I fight for control for a little bit longer than before.  So, there is some consolation.”   That’s her.  But that’s me as well.   And, I am certain that I am not the only reader that felt that line striking a chord.  I finished reading this book a few days ago.  But I couldn’t start penning my thoughts on the book immediately.  And that’s because of the stunning honesty with which Anu explains her character flaws such as anger.  Ever since I finished the book, I feel like I look at myself in the mirror that fraction of a second longer, reflecting on my strengths and being honest about my failings.  But more importantly, the book has plenty of examples that make me comfort myself that as long as I “fight” for the kind of “control” that Anu writes about, as long as I am cognizant of my flaws and work towards rectifying them that I can optimally enjoy my journey with the loved ones that travel with me.

Image Courtesy of Amazon

Anu’s book is put together with disparate, self-contained chapters– some of the standalone sections like the bison episode are delightful - that don’t lead to subsequent ones.  This format is just perfect for the book because the key objective of the book, as the title suggests, is to make us see joy in everyday trivialities.  But as in life, this book is a blend of lighthearted stuff along with some serious material like divorce.  And, Anu does justice to both.  The chapter on her divorce is sensitively written without an iota of sensationalism.  This chapter gives us just the right amount of detail, just enough to make us ponder over what our priorities in marriage should be.  The focus on sharing her story and sharing the lessons that she learned lends a remarkable air of credibility to her thoughts.  This, coupled with the clarity of her thoughts and the balanced views, makes for a much deeper reading than what I was prepared for.  One of her lines in this chapter goes, “…divorce is indeed an option but we should remember that it’s the last one.”  That succinctly states a lot of what there is to be said about successful marriages.  (Anu remarried and from how she describes her husband in the book, she sounds happily married now.)  And, the “Divorce” chapter has a touching end where we get to hear about her mother-in-law giving her pound-for-pound some of the best advice that I have heard for modern day, married couples.  (I won’t spoil it for you by revealing it in case you haven’t read the book.)

There are several other chapters such as the ones on friends, parents and even appearance, where see glimpses of her straightforward nature, the zest for life and the desire to learn continually.  The chapter titled “Appearance and Image” resonated with me strongly.  As someone that was the butt of many a joke as an overweight child (and even in my early 20s), I could appreciate Anu’s desire to  deal with insulting and insensitive comments in a mature manner.  It’s not something that I had always dealt with in a dignified manner.  I used to get into arguments and tiffs, invariably questioning (in not exactly poetic language!) whether the people in question had the right to make such comments.  It was only when I was 23 when I lost all of my excess weight.  But even now (I am 34), I obsess over not putting on even a pound of weight lest all those comments resurface.  I have sometimes been unreasonable and obsessive.  For instance, I have a food scale (yes, it measures the food in grams!) which drives my family nuts and understandably so.  Although I have never succumbed to any crazy diets or unhealthy exercise routines, I have sometimes eaten less than I should have because I was worried about the number on the weighing scale the next morning.  But reading Anu’s book definitely made me think twice about my obsession with weight, waist size, BMI, etc.  I have started to say to myself that to remain healthy should be my top priority.  That I should continue to place importance on staying fit but with a little more enjoyment and a little less fear. 

As the book neared its end, I wanted more.  I didn’t want the book to end since there was just so much detailing, so many sunny moments and so many nuggets of wisdom delivered with understated elegance.  As I wrote earlier, even after I finished the book what lingered were the positive vibes of the book and the power of those perceptive moments like the one on divorce that I had cited earlier.  I was reminded of Roy Goodman’s famous words – “Happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”  Thank you, Anu, for sharing your journey with us.   

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17 comments:

sravishanker1401gmailcom said...

Ram Murali : An Honest review from an Honest person. It comes through loud and clear in your writing. Review seems an out of sync word here. Probably the word share is more appropriate ?

Rahini David said...

Very well written, Ram. Very rarely do I decide to buy myself a book just because a fellow blogger liked it. But this I have included in my to do list.

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - thank you so much for your prompt response. I really enjoyed the book. When time permits, do check it out.

Rahini - really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. If and when you get a chance to read the book, do let me know your impressions.

Anu Hasan Official said...

Thank you for that heart warming review Ram. And i am truly happy that what i said resonated with you ... Knowing i have made even the tiniest of difference is the most I can ask
regards
Anu Hasan

Nandini said...

After reading your glorious review of the book, I am really looking forward to read the book. The best thing about you is that you always learn and put things to practice from the books you read- admire that about you.

Ram Murali said...

Anu Ma'am, thank you so much for your kind response. I am truly honored. Once again, I really enjoyed reading your book. Please continue to write!

Ram Murali said...

Many thanks, Nandu! :)

ravishanker sunderam said...

Nandini : Well said

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed reading the post. Makes me want to read the book :)
-Newbie.

Ram Murali said...

Newbie, thank you so much for your comment. Sure, do read the book when time permits. Its an extremely enjoyable read. Its fun, honest and thought provoking in equal measure.

anusrini20 said...

I like the sincerity which is evident in all your blog posts. I haven't commented here before, but I do lurk around often.
I notice the author herself has left you a comment - that must have been a thrill! :)

ravishanker sunderam said...

Anusrini20: Amen !

Ram Murali said...

Anusrini20, thank you so much for reading and posting your kind comment. I appreciate it very much.
Oh yes, it was really nice of Anu Hasan to read n comment. :)

Ram Murali said...

Thank you, Ravishanker. My next post is about Raghuvaran. I think you will enjoy it, given your terrific memories from the 80s! Post should be up in a day:)

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : I'm getting that familiar tingling sensation when I've got a ticket for the first day first show of bumper Deepavali release ! Eagerly awaiting this one.

What a coincidence - a few minutes ago I just posted a picture of 'Mark Anthony' with the caption "yennayaa dhu school pasanga maadhri..."

Ram Murali said...

Ha ha, thanks Ravishanker. I had exchanged tweets with Mohan Raman (actor) a while ago and he said that he knew Raghuvaran well. I had requested him to write a tribute but nothing came of it. Seri, nambaley ezhudhidalaame-nu thaan! Of course, I didn't know Raghuvaran personally so, it would still be nice to see Mohan Raman's write-up if he were ever to write one...
Will finish and post the write-up tonight. So, should be up Tuesday morning after 9:00 am Chennai time.
Thank you, once again.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Vow Great ! Eagerly waiting for it. Yes, it'd have been nice if Mohan Raman could've done it but methinks why not a fan ? You have the advantage of that spatial distance and the youthful energy (and you are a no mean writer yourself ! )

Incidentally Mohan Raman is an alumnus of Vidya Mandir where I did my High School. I'd posted the Kaaki Chattai Chronicles on the vidya mandir alumni space and it was a pleasure to see other alumni refering to that article and asking Mohan for his comments. No response as yet. I guess he must be insanely busy.