Not a book review: The First Step

The First Step evolved during the time I was mobility disabled following a road traffic accident on January 21, 2005. As soon as I was able to move the fingers on my right hand, my mother encouraged me to jot down whatever came to my mind. She knew I enjoyed writing and that it would turn out to be a cathartic experience for me. I started jotting down a few sentences on my first blog, View from my desk, which I had started just a month before my accident.

The_First_Step_Cover_for_KindleA couple of months before I planned to return to work, with the help of a walking aid, I realized I wanted to share my experience with others as a book or booklet. I had avoided people outside of my immediate family and had not wanted anyone to visit me during my recovering days. I knew many were concerned and had prayed for me. I had been touched by the messages received even if I had not been up to dealing with visits. I felt this was a way that I could share what I went through with those who had cared.

I also found that I was suddenly possessed by my writing bug. I had sudden clarity about how I wanted the book to flow and an overwhelming need to write it out without interruption. So, the weeks leading up to the return to work was not in preparation of resuming work but writing feverishly for hours each day, and drawing from my different blog posts wherever I felt they fitted into my story line. My family members gave me their opinion and comments during the editing process.

I self-published the book in July 2005 and printed limited copies that I sent out to my well-wishers as an expression of my thanks and acknowledgement for their kind thoughts. Several years later in 2010, I printed some more copies to raise some funds for an art morning at the Ceylon School for the deaf in Ratmalana.

Eventually I decided that even though this book was very much personal to me, I would like to share it with others who may have had similar experiences or would be interested in reading about my experience or thoughts. I did not want to have to print every few years, either with my own funds as I did before or through a traditional publisher, as I wanted the book to be easily available to anyone who might be interested in it. That led me to Amazon’s CreateSpace programme in 2012. The First Step is now available on Amazon on a print-on-demand basis and in their Kindle store.

The First Step can be freely downloaded today and tomorrow at the Amazon Kindle store as part of a book promotion.

Book details:

  • Title: The First Step
  • Author: Ahila Thillainathan
  • Paperback: 84
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 20, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1478253174
  • Sold at the Kindle Store by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc
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Book Review: The Ancient Tea Horse Road

A cold evening in Shangrila, huddled in a room on the upper floor of a wooden cottage, a group of us were treated by Jeff Fuchs to a visual of his trek along the ancient tea horse road that had culminated in the writing and publishing of a book. The images were powerful and the story-teller interesting.

That evening made me want to read the book and after several months, I settled down to reading the book over days and over cups of pu’er tea.The ancient tea horse road is a narrative that takes us along the ancient route and offers us glimpses into the vista, the conditions that the traders and employees would have faced travelling along this route, little insights into the people and their ancestors that would have been engaged in the trade and most importantly, the types of tea that is so revered by the people along this route. Jeff brings an element of the personal self into the narrative by his accounts of the people he trekked with and the friendships formed along this route, which makes it all the more of an interesting read.

While I enjoyed the book and have much of a deeper respect and appreciation of pu’er tea now, I do wish that the personal stories of the elderly muleteers, the last of their kind, could have been dwelt with more in the book.
Book details:
  • Title: The Ancient Tea Horse Road
  • Author: Jeff Fuchs
  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Renouf Pub Co Ltd (June 30, 2008)
  • Published: June 30, 2008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670066117

Book Review: Eddie Would Go

Note: I had posted this review on my blog View from my desk on 2013/02/17 and have transferred it here.

Eddie would go

eddieIt was a special wednesday evening at the East West Center, Hawai’i in September 2012, that I first heard the story of Eddie Aikau. The guest speaker, Stuart Coleman chose to talk about two Hawaiian heroes to demonstrate how individuals are catalysts for change.

The story about the Hokule’a and how Eddie, a renowned surfer and lifeguard, dreamed of going on the voyage tracing Hawaiian’s ancient route across the Polynesian islands but never made it during that fateful March 1978 voyage and how his life inspired others to continue that journey touched me so much so that I purchased Stuart Coleman’s book ‘Eddie would go: the story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian hero’ at the end of the talk.

I finally found the space and time to read the book this week and I am very much touched with the sensitivity and honesty that Stuart has handled the real-life characters. It is difficult to write about someone who has become a legend – a demi-god – in his death but it is even more difficult to write a portrayal of him that brings together different sides to the person and makes the person more human enough for the reader to feel a connection. Stuart goes further – he also brings to life vivid accounts of the people surrounding Eddie and how Eddie’s life and death touched them. I found myself reflecting deeply on how momentous events in a person’s life can change the entire direction to their purpose and life. And, how a person steers through the stormy waters is what brings them to shore.

I found it difficult to think about Dave Lyman, the captain of Hokule’a, on its 1978 voyage and how the weight of responsibility of that fateful voyage and losing Eddie would have weighed on him. I pondered on how his career derailed from a capable sailor to never being asked to be a skipper again and how it affected all areas of his life. To have taken a decision under very trying circumstances and for having that decision haunt him for the rest of his life. It is tough.

I also wonder how Eddie’s family themselves, particularly his parents for the remainder of their lives and his sister, came to terms with their inner demons. The fact that a family friend had asked them to speak to Eddie before the voyage and to persuade him to not go because of a dream that his wife had heard of the boat capsizing and Eddie being lost at sea. The family was torn but in the end decided not to say anything to Eddie because they knew it was his dream and passion and that he was a person who would go, when his mind was made up. It would have been hard for them in the aftermath of the accident.

Hokule'aAt the same time, Nainoa Thompson‘s story is a beacon of hope and a story of true courage and how one man converted a traumatic experience into a new life purpose. Despite the guilt and responsibility that had weighed on him, Nainoa became convinced of the dream of Eddie and felt the need to complete the voyage and worked hard in the subsequent years to restore the Hokule’a and eventually, embarking on voyages around the Polynesian islands and to other parts of the world. Now, the executive director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Nainoa Thompson is the first Hawaiian to have practiced the ancient Polynesian art of navigation since the 14th century. It was a privilege to have been able to see the Hokule’a while she was in drydock preparing for her worldwide voyage and to hear Nainoa speak about the educational voyages they have been undertaking over the past two decades. To read Nainoa Thompson’s write-up on the last day that he saw Eddie Aikau, do visit Mana magazine’s article “Eddie Went.”

‘Eddie would go’ is a book that has been well-written by Stuart Coleman and which I really appreciated reading.

Book details:

  • Title: Eddie Would Go, The story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian hero
  • Author: Stuart Holmes Coleman
  • Hardcover: 271 pages
  • Publisher: MindRaising Press; 1st edition (October 2002)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970621375