Old editions of Readers' Digest used to carry really good stories, not like the present issues which carry stories like 'How to beat depression', 'How to spice up your sex life' etc. Agreed, a magazine needs to change with times and the times of today demand such topics to be highlighted upon. But at the same time, the charm that used to be associated with an old RD issue, thick and full of stories which could kindle anyone's imagination is missing nowadays.
The title of this blog is a direct rip off from a compilation of RD called "Readers' Digest: 7 best books". I chanced upon this at home while cleaning my grandfather's cupboard. This is a book which i will treasure over all Harrys, Aragorns, Holmes and the like.
Its a great joy to share such stories. You, my dear reader might know about these events, but lets spare a thought for those who might not know. Even if you do know, I suggest that you go ahead and try to get hold of this RD book (sources: (1) me, if u meet me in Bangalore (2) a lucky draw at ur local raddiwallah).
(1) The Lady with the Lamp: A delightful piece upon the life of Florence Nightingale. Not like the drab lessons we might have studied in school. (the worst example of a biographical torture that i can think of is the stories of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar...i used to have it alternately in English, kannada or Sanskrit every year till i finished my 12th.....I hope Maya memsaab is not reading this)....Coming back to the topic, this piece talks about Florence's life, how she was motivated to be a nurse, how she pioneered the hospital system in Crimea and the like
(2) The little black room: I do not remember this title all that well and neither do i remember the story exactly. Thats because my favourite character in the story gets killed while trying to defuse a bomb set by the IRA (Irish Republican Army)....I used to model my mannerisms on that character and reading about his death demoralised me so much that even now i haven't been able to reconcile myself to read that story objectively.
(3) A Pattern of Islands: This was a delightful piece about a young doctor (or was it an administrator?) and his wife who go to the carribean to serve the people there. Nothing much except for a nice travelogue on the customs, way of life etc
(4) Kon tiki: Most of you must have heard about this story of adventure and daring of 6 men: Thor Heyerdahl, Erik Hesselberg, Bengt Danielsson, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby and Herman Watzinger. It gets real personal and thats what a book is supposed to do
(5) Mt.Everest: This is a story with an Indian connection. Its narrated by Tenzing Norkey. It talks about his efforts to conquer Everest with many mountaineers until he finally tasted success with Edmund Hillary. An interesting book to say the least
(6) The sinking of the Bismarck: My personal favourite. This is about one of the greatest naval battles fought in the history of mankind. i rank it at the top followed by Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Jutland (WW I). This is the story of the two heavy duty state of the art warships of the German navy at that time and the chase across the seas by the British fleet and finaly the sinking of the Bismarck.
(7) The Longest Day: This one is about D Day and Erwin Rommel's failure to anticipate the time and position of the attack/landing. Its about how the biggest invasion occured, what was the scenario behind that (on both allied and axis sides), what happened on ground that day etc. The lasting impression that you carry from this story is when Rommel says, 'How foolish of me, how foolish of me'.
Well, these were the 7 stories (aka books in RD terminology) that i wanted to blog about. But i cant help sneaking in another one about the 6 day war israel fought. facts like how farmers below the Golan burnt the fields to prevent the Syrian tanks from entering Israel, or the one wherein Israeli historians uncover some subterranean Biblical passages which helped the Israeli army capture an Egyptian division with the divisional commander in his underwear make for really good reading.
really, sometimes i wonder where such writing skill has disappeared nowadays.