January Reading: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Reflecting back on my January reads for the past 2-3 years I realised that I don’t pick easy books. I usually have tomes with unfamiliar tropes, complex storytelling and non-linear narratives as my way to gear up for the year ahead.

However, this year bookstagram wove its magic and I found myself looking at the impossibly lovely book cover of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches as a read in one of the online book clubs. Thanks, Resh! And I couldn’t resist reading about witches and irregular at that!

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna is about witches, magic, love and familial relations that the characters find in the unlikeliest of places.

The author started writing the book a few months into the pandemic. I can understand the feeling of escapism and the need to find unconditional love and acceptance and everything heartwarming.

A welcoming house by the sea, lovely gardens, greenhouses, a friendly golden retriever, a bright, sunny-smiled witch, adorable little girls who can do magic, a sententious old man with a wicked sense of humour, a fussing-over-you housekeeper, a gentle and sweet gardener, a scowling-but-heart-of-gold librarian, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches manages to have all these elements so that the book is like a hug, cosy and nice.

Nealy no one here has a family. We meet orphans (all witches are, by virtue of a spell gone wrong), people seeking refuge outside abusive marriage, dysfunctional families, battling childhood trauma, having trust issues. But there’s no dark cloud on the horizon. Not even dead bodies or skeletons evoke horror. There’s so much love from strangers, adopted families and in the unlikeliest of places that this world becomes your favourite place to live in.

You are so entranced by everything that makes you happy and loved that you don’t mind the lack of conflict, rather the lack of serious conflict in the story. The only thing I can say that’s not warm and glowing about the book is that the disasters, the difficult circumstances are somehow glossed over, the obstacles fall too easily and the conflicts resolved too conveniently. However I wasn’t going to let that come in the way of my enjoyment.

I would recommend this book to everyone, if they want to just lose themselves in the world of what-can-be, rather than thinking can-it-be-possible.


4 Powerful Ways to Self Renewal

No matter at what stage of life you are, you could do with some improvement or shaking up. For those of you content with the way things are in your life now, pay heed to the ways you can keep the status quo. For those who feel that life throws up challenges faster than they can resolve or that their goals loom faster than they can be met or even that they are going nowhere with their present efforts, here are a few ways your mind can be reset, your days become more meaningful and your dreams seen closer to realization. 

1. Gratitude 

Practise Gratitude to see the best in every situation and count your blessings over and over again to get into a positive frame of mind. 

In her book, Magic, the author Rhonda Byrne shows how Gratitude has an immense power in making a person see the best in everything and everyone. It is precisely this positive bent that brings about changes in our lives that seem nothing short of miracles. 

2  Directed Questions

Harnessing the power of your brain to bring a change in focus is what can help you to succeed at a personal and professional level. Developed by the NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Trainer, Rex Sikes in the 1990s, asking Directed Questions is a way to channelise the brain’s capabilities of looking for answers through the massive amount of data it already has. 

The technique consists of knowing what to ask the mind so that the mind goes in a positive direction and then gets the focus on the things you most want to achieve. These questions are different from making affirmations. In fact, they are supposed to be 400 times more powerful. 

3. Examine your Narrative 

There are stories we tell about ourselves to others. They may be half truths, some embellishments and some lies. They are told this way because we want to project the best of ourselves to the world. 

Then, there are the stories we tell ourselves. These are the voices in our heads. They are the ones which say how we could not follow our dreams or could not get that job or why we turned out the way we did in our lives. We all have these narratives running in our minds telling us the reasons we are not the best versions of ourselves. 

Take out some time and examine the narrative you have of yourself. If it does not work for you, it is time to change that story. 

4. Declutter 

Get rid of the things you don’t want in your life. Declutter your space and your physical surroundings. A physical declutter can do wonders in creating a sense of relief by letting go of the stress that too many things bring. 

Marie Kondo, in her book, Spark Joy says that we should keep only those things with us that spark joy. 

Extend this logic to your emotional space. Let go of situations and people that no longer work. There is no point in hanging on to things just because you have always done it that way. Evaluate your emotions. Weed out the negative ones. 

Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales (photo credit: rak12ela10.wikispaces.com)

Children have a wonderful imagination. They are also very quick learners. In our way of educating them and also to develop their sense of wonder, we introduce them to stories and rhymes; verses and delightful prose.

My little one regularly has storytelling sessions at school. The children also get books that are full of illustrations and a few words, to pique their interest and introduce them to the written word. I myself love to look through these books, to hold the stiff board pages, and turn them awkwardly as any adult would do, used to the thin pages of paperbacks. I pore over the wonderful illustrations, the bright colours, the glitter and the cutouts. I try to imagine myself a little child with a fertile mind, soaking in the colors, the shapes and the textures of the world around him.

Every little thing is magic, from morning till night. Right from the sunlight filtering through the curtains, the bright day, the shining orb called the sun, the blue of the sky, the red of the cereal bowl, the crunchy breakfast, the sweetness of milk, through the day, on and on till it is time for bed and a restful slumber. Ah, what a wonderful world the children live in. Their minds are ready to believe anything and everything. To recreate that lovely world, I like to read fantasy books. Nonsensical verses. Outrageously amazing worlds.

I also sometimes pick up the so called fairy tales. Populated by dragons, stepmothers, ogres, talking animals, wide-eyed children, cruel adults, princes handsome and strong, princesses beautiful and helpless, waiting for a magic spell to be broken, to be rescued by someone. More often than not, I find stories that reinforce stereotypes. And then, I feel afraid of what ideas they give to young minds. Also, more often than not, when I talk to my children and their friends about these stories, I encounter questions about the unjust and unethical behaviour of characters. Why are people cruel? Or why do they steal? Or why do they spy on others? Or why are they greedy?

Give me a tale with imagination any day. Of fantastic characters, strange lands, exciting discoveries. Talking trees, animals and toys. Walking pack of cards. Time travel. Space mysteries. I just want to avoid giving negativity to my children so I sift through the tales that show immorality and falsehood, and by being ready with answers that they can relate to, to explain the behaviour of adults and the real world.