Sunday, March 3, 2024

Of Words and Play


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Book Review By Shreya Chaudhuri 

When a wordsmith like Shashi Tharoor collaborates with his long-time friend Joseph Zacharias to churn out a book on everyday aphorisms, the end result has to be eloquent! The compact book is an extension of Tharoor’s flair for language, expansive vocabulary pivoted around crafting smart expressions.

The book titled, The Less You Preach The More You Learn: Aphorisms for Our Age is a compilation of 200 aphorisms coined by Tharoor and Zacharias which are intended to give a spin to the challenges of 21st century living. These statements are short, bite-sized, wisdom-loaded, mostly upbeat statements written with the intention to inspire, uplift and deliberate on.

Aphorism is known to be the oldest existing form of literary expression. An aphorism, loosely translates as a condensed saying with an open-ended interpretation designedly infusing some nuggets of wisdom on life. If an aphorism becomes adequately popular (read viral), it progresses into becoming a well-known saying or an adage. For that to transpire, they need to be presented in a clever, epigrammatic style to the reader.

This lucidly compiled book has segments dedicated to a wide range of 18 themes. Some of which are titled as — The Mysteries of Life, Of Human Nature, The Essence of Wisdom, The Working Life, Friends and Foes, Shades of Despair, Matters of Faith, Verities of Life. These carefully curated, witty meets wise, pared-down truths pills spill insights on life, as we live it. On unraveling the mysteries of life, one such aphorism is: ‘Life is actually a game of snakes and ladders played on a chessboard.’ Similarly, on the facet of human nature, the maxim says: ‘Loyalty is only recognized when it is advertised. But the faithless are often the loudest in their affirmations of devotion.’ In a similar fashion, a nugget on wisdom says: ‘When the fool points to the moon, the wise man does not look at the finger’. Another masterfully expressed adage on advice and criticism states: ‘The man who thinks he knows everything needs to marry a woman who actually does.’ One of the more appealing observations on working life is: ‘Never drink with the boss. Do not carry his bags either.’

Well-known book illustrator Priya Kuriyan wields her pen to bring alive some of the pearls of wisdom presented in the book. She puts perspective to the maxims by weaving in visual elements that enrich the textual depth of the expressions. The graphics, in turn speak to the readers, both young and old, imprinting the textual articulation on the impressionable audience.

The surprise quotient in the book is the presence of a third co-contributor, none other than late Kofi Annan, then secretary-general of the United Nations (1997-2006). Tharoor has inserted four mighty aphorisms personally uttered by Annan during his stint as a diplomat at the United Nations. One such compelling one-liner that leaves much room for thinking is: ‘Never hit a man on the head if you have your fingers between his teeth’.

While being in the thick of digital age things, heavily inundated with information, the average mind’s consumption too has seen an upward spiral. Amid such bombardment of content and with a simultaneous decline in reading culture, these summarized capsules encapsulate wit and wisdom for the ‘distracted’.

After all, the time required to read one aphorism is less than the time to understand and immerse in it. The best part about these condensed yet stylized one-liners is that they can be carried in the mind unlike an omnibus on philosophy. The beauty of them being that they are portable, but not always lightweight…

Published by Aleph Book Company
Pages 182
Price Rs 499


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