Book Review

Book Review: I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN

I received the book ‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN,’ by G.S.Subbu, sometime around mid-January and once I had completed the book that I was then reading, I started on this book. It was an honor to receive a signed copy from the author himself.

The book is written in the form of a soliloquy and the language is simple. With just 158 pages I should have finished it in a week’s time even at my pace but I did not because the book is slow paced and is apt if one is the mood to introspect. As the author reflects on his journey he draws the reader to do the same. One needs to be prepared to do it. Therein lay the challenge for me – to slow down. And thereforethe delay in this review for which I must apologize to the author. But like they say, ‘There is a time for everything,’ and for me the time came now during the lockdown when most of us are doing a lot of introspecting.

The author makes it clear from the beginning that the book is his legacy for his children and his grandchildren. One would then wonder why they need to read the book. Its not as if the author is a celebrity. But that’s precisely the reason why the book should be read. Its the story of a man (the author) in his sixties, who managed to successfully graduate from one of the most prestigious institutes in the country despite losing his dad at the age of 13, and reached a very senior position in the banking industry (extraordinary in many ways for a lot of people) and yet who thinks he is completely ordinary. The book is for ‘ordinary’ people which implies it is for all. For at the end of the day strip of us everything and we are mostly the same – ordinary.

The author’s sharing of most mundane experiences with sincerity resonates and I felt there could be no better title for the book.The cover on the book shows the author in a contemplative mood.The writing is conversational and the author engages the reader by addressing him as ‘Friend.’ He does this frequently throughout the book . It reminded me of Mark Anthony’s speech in Julius Caesar. Repetition has a way of ensuring that he does not lose the attention of the reader.

The author rambles along taking the reader into his past and his innermost thoughts similar to that of Hugh Prather’s ‘Notes to myself’. Only here the pages also reveal the author’s life in a way that aids the discussion. What struck me the most is the complete honesty with which the author talks of his regrets, his failures and his feelings on various topics ranging from his beard to his idea of compassion and charity . The book is confessional in some ways like when he talks about not attending his mother’s funeral because he couldn’t bear to witness it or when he talks of the beggar he passed by everyday and did not bother giving him a second look.

By confessing, the author not only unburdens himself but by sharing his point of view legitimizes the reader’s own thoughts on subjects such as love, marriage, relationships and seemingly inconsequential ones such as ‘sharing posts on social media’ or how the ‘weight of bank manuals’ help in building muscles and do nothing more. The book makes you think hard at times and it makes you smile at other times. There is something in every page of the book – an answer to those nagging doubts that one might have and brush against the carpet for fear of raking up a hornet’s nest in one’s own mind. At times the writing is in a lighter vein and the commentary is witty. At times it is despondent as it would rightly be for someone looking back on life knowing that he/she has but one chance at it.

When I began the book, I drew a parallel with my father and my father-in-law (people around the age of the author). The very nature of those relationships do not allow them to discuss certain subjects with me. Reading the author’s thoughts felt like I was speaking to them. It helped me in a way to understand them better. As I continued to read, I found it wasn’t just them but there were answers to questions that I have at times asked myself. Something as simple as, ‘Is it really fine for me to share my writing, my art on Facebook?’ About sharing on social media the author says, ‘There is a joy in sharing, a satisfaction of a need to be understood and a need for adulation.”

Another instance is when the author talks about falling in love with a stranger. The author says, “There comes a times when you fall in what you think is love with every girl you meet if she looks at you for more than five minutes and talks to you.” He talks of a time when ‘dating’ and ‘having girlfriends’ was not a norm and children went to ‘boy’s’ or a ‘girl’s’ school. He says, ‘Relationships happen; that’s what life is about. How many first loves have actually translated into lasting relationships?”

About honesty he says, “That’s what we all do, we lie for we find it uncomfortable to acknowledge and upset the balance in our lives and we live that lie.” I found it interesting for ‘honesty’ is a trait I take great pride in and yet reading these lines, I accept the truth in them. “There is nothing wrong I guess, to accept the fact and recognize that is an integral part of what you are today. Nobody should be interested in what happened as long as it does not upset their lives, so there is no need for you to lie to them.”

The author shares a quote from Hermann Hesse’s book Demian – ‘The life of everybody is a road to himself, No one has attained to self-realization, yet he strives after it, one ploddingly, another with less effort, as best as he can. Each one carries the remains of his birth, slime and eggshells, with him to the end.’

The book is a peek into the mind of a person who has sixty odd (by the end of the book, seventy) years of experience living in this world. It does not tell you, ‘Do this or do that.’ And yet reading it may help you understand your parents or others who grew in the fifties and the sixties better.

The book is philosophical in nature with gems of wisdom shared in the form of personal experiences, famous quotes and books – that have left an indelible imprint on him and made him who he is now. The names of book shared in this books are takeaways for the reader who wishes to improve the quality of his/her reading or for a writer who wishes to work on his/her writing. Sartre’s ‘The Age of Reason,’ Will Durant’s ‘ The Story of Philosophy,’ and Schopenhauer’s ‘The World as Will and Idea’ are some of the books mentioned. There are many more.

I could go on and on but I suppose you have got the gist. It is a book that’s worth buying and reading- when one is ready to delve into themselves. As said earlier it is philosophical nature. So if you are a fan of books that teach you something along the way, that make you ponder and think, then this book is for you.

Its a book that you can return to from time to time to read a quote or a line which is what I will be doing as there are many lines that I found myself highlighting as I was reading.

I give the book 5 stars for its honesty and the ease with which it flows. It costs Rs 199.00 and can be purchased by clicking on the below link :Amazon India

Book review - GS Subbu

What the author says about the book:

Sir, you asked me who I am. What shall I say? I have been asking myself this question for quite some time and reached nowhere. After all I am no saint to throw away everything that I have and go in search of an answer. If I had, I would have been a saint. Don’t you agree? Well I have a name, but what’s in a name? You may call me an Ordinary Man.

The narrator in a series of conversations with a friend who he says is his alter ego and through his own introspection, unfolds the process of growing up and aging through an exploration of all that had brought joy in living to serious questions regarding God, religion, destiny, freewill, compassion and to whether we have been really honest in our relationships; the relationships that have affected us at various stages in our life and continue to influence even our present living. They are all locked up somewhere within our private world and which we release and relish in our solitude.

Though ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ is an autobiographical novel, it is only in parts that real events have been narrated to build a base for addressing the questions and the existential angst which arise in the mind of any person during the process of living and that the first step towards resolution is in acceptance of the reality of existence and the finality of death.

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2 comments on “Book Review: I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN

  1. Thanks Smitha for your wonderfully insightful review of my book. This is one of the best I have received. You know what, I feel like reading my book once again. Apart from your evolving as a poet and painter, you are now leaving your imprint as a reviewer of books. Hope your review creates a renewed interest to readers in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words. Reading your comment is very satisfying to me as a book reviewer and mostly someone who looks up to you. I hope it does create a renewed interest in the book. The book deserves attention.

      Like

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