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By Vikas Datta
Title: Love is Always Right and Other Musings; Author: Vinita Dawra Nangia; Publisher: The Times Group Books; Pages: 248; Price: Rs.299

Modern life, work, relationships and even recreation can throw up their own unique challenges, and while some might have their own roadmap to deal with them, many others might find them daunting. And some advice would not be remiss for both types - even those with maps may sometimes need to seek directions, or course corrections.

There is no shortage of advice - in a bewildering variety of approaches. For it is not only philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual leaders, but management experts, soldiers, economists, sportspersons, actors and others who have also chipped in to probe various facets of the human condition and to present a range of solutions. These however may not always be applicable, feasible or effective.

Sometimes it is the more simple, the uncommon "common" sense and sometimes counter-intuitive advice, presented almost informally rather than a diktat, that proves to be the best.

And that is what author, journalist, and columnist Vinita Dawra Nangia offers here.

In this second anthology drawn out of her long-running "O-zone" column in Times Life, the Times of India's Sunday supplement, she offers a well considered but refreshingly uncomplicated take on issues of life, love and livelihood, spanning individuality, personal and professional growth, whether being nice or modest precludes success and if aggressiveness is of any help, risk-taking, on standing out, the quest for perfection, the responsibility and perils of loyalty, love's various stages, dilemmas and games, different aspects - anticipated or unanticipated - of its desired ultimate stage, healing broken hearts when things don't work out, creating personal spaces, gender roles, whether solitude (in marital terms) is desirable, emotional maturity, and more.

These are issues that we face but don't even recognise till there pointed out and then seem obvious - one of them, only made possible in these days of advanced digital technology, is the penchant of many of us to strive first to ensure memories of a pleasurable time rather than savour it then.

As Nangia asks in "The Magic of Now" (which seems to be a contemporary echo of Leo Tolstoy's celebrated short story "The Three Questions"), "standing in the midst of the most amazing scenery on a holiday, or while celebrating a special occasion, how often have you found yourself looking at things through a camera?" Unfortunately, for many of us, it will be more often that not for "so happy are you with the present moment that you believe it isn't enough to just lose yourself in the happiness. You need to do more, you need to freeze capture the moment for posterity..."

But the problem is that in "an attempt to capture present moments for the future, you forget the right-now time". As noted it seems obvious when pointed out, but we never feel it at the moment, and then inexplicably feel sad over the too-transient nature of our pleasures.

Take one in which she seeks to discern "what distinguishes you from 'others' and gives you the cutting edge?" and brings out the salutary lesson that it is not only embracing the concept that is needed but something more fundamental - a distinction many never understand and explains why they languish unnoticed.

And it is only not lessons that are imparted here - there is a lyrically beautiful description of a rainy day in Hyderabad that offers a compelling account of how to forget LCD screens to use more natural means to stoke imagination and inspiration.

There are many more - but they need to be perused first hand and thought over. For this is not an infallible guide but more of a manual for identifying the issues involved so you can deal with them - on your own. This is what makes it a valuable read.

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