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.