Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 May 2019

Member Reviews

A sweet, feel-good book. Nothing earth-shattering but a lovely pick-me-up for a grey day. Maybe a better one for older readers
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I would call this a coming of age novel. Of course, the age the protagonist is coming of is 70. Professor Chandra is a world renowned economist who did NOT win the Nobel Prize. This nonoccurence, combined with being hit by a bicycle and having a (silent) heart attack causes him to reevaluate what's left in his life. His ex-wife is living in Colorado with her new husband and Chandra's younger daughter, he hasn't spoken to his elder daughter in years, and he has a stressful relationship with his son (who lives on another continent, [as does his ex-wife and and younger daughter]). Thus begins his sojourn in Ensalen and a Zen Center in Colorado as he discovers and follows his bliss.
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Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss is a  family drama book centering on the crotchety Professor Chandra.  He is a man turning 70 who has set beliefs about the world and often disagrees with his children on how things really are.  Throughout the book, he attempts transformative experiences to try to find a new path and better connect with his family.  It's a redemption story that can be a bit predictable, but an easy read none the less.
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P. R. Chandrasekhar, a professor of economics at University of Cambridge, is at the top of his profession.  A specialist in international trade theory nearing his seventieth birthday, Chandra is widely published and has even been touted for the Nobel Prize.  He really hopes to receive that medal, if for no other reason than it will help justify the mess he has made in virtually every other aspect of his life.  His colleagues do not really like him, his wife has left him for another man, and he has become estranged from his three children, one of whom refuses to talk to him. When he suffers an accident-induced heart attack shortly after getting passed over for the award, Chandra embarks on a quasi-spiritual journey to repair his relationships and make amends for a lifetime of selfish acts.  Will that quest yield the results he hopes for?

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss takes readers along on the professor’s ride, even if we find that his problems are only partly resolved by the end of the book.  Nevertheless, the author has done an excellent job of developing Chandra as a fully realized character who is genuinely trying for his own coming-of-age experience, no matter how late in his life it might occur.  Indeed, there is plenty of insight and gentle humor involved in the story of how Chandra gradually realizes the adverse effect that his bullying personality has had on those he loves and how he sets out to rectify the situation.  If I had a problem with the novel—and I am not sure that “problem” is exactly the right word—it is the way in which the professor attains his enlightenment.

In particular, after a highly contrived confrontation with his ex-wife’s new spouse, Chandra is coerced to spend a couple of days at Esalen Institute in Big Sur attending a seminar called ‘Being Yourself in the Summer Solstice’.  Here, he learns the rudiments of meditation as well as how to recognize the “critical voices” that have dictated behavior throughout his life.  This leads to an implausible connection to a Zen monastery in the Colorado mountains where the family’s healing, such as it is, ultimately takes place.  All of this is a little too convenient, but, as revealed in the book’s Acknowledgments, it is clearly the agenda that the author wants to promote.  Unfortunately, the notion of meditation and Zen philosophy as the solution to a lifetime of problems felt a little “new age-y” to me, but circa the 1970s rather than something closer to the present day.  So, while I did enjoy aspects of the novel, it was not an unmitigated success.
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Delightful story about finding what truly makes you happy.  Would be wonderful for book clubs, sure to spark a lot of discussion about how our lives and priorities change as we age.
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An economist who is divorced, moving towards that "Golden Age" and missing out on the Nobel Peace prize again has the opportunity to take a different to enhance his life.  A curmudgeon in the highest degree he embarks on a journey that will change his life.  He begins to have the courage to embrace the life he had missed out on.  Author Rajeev Balasubramanyam  brings us from England to the United States in this story about the power of change.
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Imagine hoping you'll get recognized in your field and it doesn't come? That's how this novel opens. Prof. Chandra is a prickly character who takes time to warm up to but his journey to bliss was enlightening to me too!
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing the ARC edition of this novel.  I found this story of an egotistical septuagenarian economist extremely funny. After being turned down for the Nobel prize for the umpteenth time and then having an unfortunate accident with a bicycle, Chandra starts really examining his life and realizing that his ambition has gotten in the way of his relationships with his three children and his ex-wife.  In an effort to repair his relationships and figure out what will make him happy, he goes on a spiritual retreat where he doesn't really buy into all the mumbo jumbo but nevertheless befriends a magnanimous woman, Dolores, who runs a Buddhist retreat center with her husband. When Chandra's younger daughter Jasmine falls into trouble with drugs, he calls upon Dolores and arranges for Jasmine to stay at the retreat center.  As Chandra gets to know his children better, he realizes many of the things that frustrate him about his children are the same things he doesn't like in himself. I found Chandra's mental ponderings and struggles hilarious and laughed out loud several times while reading this novel.  If you like the writing style of Kevin Kwan in "Crazy Rich Asians", I think you'd like this novel as well.
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The opening scenes in Cambridge made me think I'd be following the befuddled professor through a satire of academia. There are some elements of that, and they're specific enough to the field of economics to make me wonder if the author is or was an economist. But the satire is broader than that: it also takes on new-age America (Esalen Institute, specifically - but most successfully in the character of Steve), M.B.A. mills, and the Nobel. Professor Chandra is perhaps best described by the fact that other characters say he's "a character" and he doesn't understand what they mean. His "journey of a lifetime" (as the marketing copy phrases it) yields small adjustments rather than significant transformations in his beliefs, relationships, and approach to life; in that regard at least, I found it quite realistic. The conflict that was most interesting to me, since I've seen it play out among my peers, is between Chandra and his radical elder daughter. It was a less thoughtful exploration than I've encountered in books such as Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist, but does a good job of raising some serious issues in a lighthearted context. In fact, I would say the same for the book overall.
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Missing out on a Nobel Prize and a bicycle accident just before his 70th birthday send Professor Chandra in search of what happiness is. Is it his work? Is it where he lives? What about his children, now adults, leading very disparate lives, even to the point where his ex-wife and two of his children won’t tell him where his other daughter is per her request? How did his life become so fractured and how does he put it back together? The journey that he takes from England to Colorado and beyond is one of self-discovery aided by his family and a wonderful cast of characters who challenge him all along the way.  This late-in-life coming of age story has many twists and turns and is almost like reading through a round of pinball. For fans of “A Man Called Ove,” “The Little French Bistro,” and “The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry.”  
#ProfessorChandraFollowsHisBliss #NetGalley
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Not the quirky curmudgeon, but a self absorbed professor who thinks he knows best, Professor Chandra comes to a realization that he is not happy and has been tyrannical to his family.  Well written, with philosophical and psychological insights into this South Asian man, Chandra goes to a retreat which begins his new approach to his family, particularly his troubled three children.  Slow to start, but I really enjoyed the depth of the story and the characters.  Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.
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I rounded up to make this five stars because it was the escape reading I was in the mood for.  Chandra is a smug, self-congratulating Cambridge professor who is in a headlong pursuit of the Nobel prize in Economics which he has spent his life chasing and has chased others away in the process.  He expects it any time now.  Even his colleagues assume he’ll receive it.  His smugness and drive have wrung out whatever humor and compassion he might have once had.  He has alienated just about everybody, including his family.

Once again denied his coveted award, he returns to his classroom, wishing he had at least one Swedish student he could torment mercilessly.  After a student reports him to the Master of the College for persistently calling her an imbecile in front of her peers, a sabbatical is suggested/ordered.  And this is where the fun begins.  It’s not a romp, there are serious moments of introspection and not much bliss.  Chandra begins a slow journey, learning how to listen to others and to listen to himself and in the process goes from insufferable to sympathetic.  It’s when he has to swallow his pride and work to restore relationships with his four children and stop telling them how to run their lives that he really becomes interesting.
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It is never too late to change. Do you believe this? What would make someone who is set in their judgmental, arrogant ways change? How do the modern “blended families” work? Can they? Professor Chandra is about to find out. After failing to win the Nobel Prize yet one more time and being knocked down by a bicycle the Professor embarks on a journey of self-discovery. He may not always be a willing traveler but the reader will enjoy the journey.  This is a touching and humorous story of a man reevaluating his life and relationships, changing his perspective and healing his family.
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This book is not what it looks like on the surface. At least not what it looked like to me. It's not a light beach read. It's also not a "quirky character" read like quite a few that came out last year. I like both of those genres just fine but I wanted to make sure to say what it's not because I find that the expectations we have for a book before we read it end up coloring our feelings about the book (at least it does for me.)

Anyhow. This book is about a father, (and his family), whose life is not turning out the way he thought/wanted/worked for and at almost seventy, he is reflecting and taking steps to understand what life is about and to reconnect with his children.

There are several lovely passages in the book. Here's one I liked:

"....Even my wife, my former wife, I mean. I used to know her, but now I only think I knew her. She left me for someone else. His name's Steve. I think he understands her. I don't think I ever did."

"It's a bit cliched, isn't it?" said Bryan, whose grin seemed to have prevailed for three hours now. "The aging male whole wife left him all alone and now women are this giant cosmic mystery...."

"So now I am lonely and a cliche?"

"I don't think it's about understanding women. You're just up against a universal conundrum. Look, I have a partner, right? I like him. I love him. But I don't understand him. Sometimes I think I don't even know him. And that's not because he's an atheist or Hispanic or an only child. It's because he's another human being. Humans don't understand each other. Punto. That's the way it is. But start saying you don't understand women and you're making yourself the problem. Let is go. You're just a human like anyone else."

There are a few bits of wisdom here and there that really spoke to me. I also loved that it didn't tie up into a big, pretty bow in the end. There are moments of realization, moments of progress but there are also moments of sliding back. These characters are human. They are flawed. They are real. Even the ones you don't know much about, you can connect with.

I really enjoyed this gem and thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Introspective study about searching for meaning in ones life when all seems to have gone wrong.  Professor Chandra finds an unusual  way to find himself.
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Professor Chandra, soon to be seventy, has once again not won the Pulitzer Prize in Economics. His career was built on theories now unpopular--as unpopular as the Professor himself! 

His kids won't talk with him, his ex married a male bimbo, his coworkers are sick of him. He has some nagging doubts about his whole life. Has he valued the wrong things? 

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss had me laughing out loud through the first half.  Chandra's struggles with the world and his family are presented with humor. 

Chandra takes up the challenge of spending time "seeking his bliss" at Esalen. He takes in stride new experiences like meditation and nude hot tub conversations. He uses what he learns and tries to reconnect with his alienated children. All Chandra's problems don't disappear like magic, but what he learns and absorbs does bring him to a place where healing can begin to happen.

I enjoyed the novel and felt invested in Chandra and his family. But...Halfway through the book, I felt like there was a secret agenda. Like the author was proselytizing! Was the novel just one big sales pitch for a certain experience and lifestyle? The author, I discovered, practices Zen meditation. 

Can we solve our issues with better self-talk, claiming responsibility for myself, opening up about my repressed feelings? Would spending time at a Zen monastery change our life? Do self-help gurus really help? Maybe. I mean, this is all very good advice. Maybe we all need a spiritual journey now and then. Reevaluate our goals and values. 

So decide for yourself. If you are seeking a role model for change, Chandra might be your guy. 

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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I loved this book! Laughed out loud a number of times and was smiling practically the whole way through. Professor Chandra's life goal is to be awarded the Nobel Prize in economics but along the way he loses the affections of his wife and three children.  His wife's new husband shames him into participating in a New Age retreat (I'm not going to go into the details of how -- it's a delicious read) and this transforms the way he sees his life, what he has, and what's worth cherishing. My heart ached for Chandra, his daughters, son and wife .... really ... for everyone. Well drawn characters and not a nasty one in the whole lot.
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This is a sweet, funny depiction of a modern family and a spiritual journey. While the author gently satirizes our society's search for enlightenment, he also shows us that happiness and family harmony is within reach.  A lovely book.
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Professor Chandra is experiencing a bit of a crisis: after years of being renowned as an economics scholar, he has failed to win the Nobel prize he was certain to receive. He wonders what all his efforts were for. Now he is divorced from his wife, estranged from his oldest daughter and distant from his other children. Uncertain about his future, Professor Chandra finds himself embarking on a journey and discovering his true self along the way.
Add this to the list of books about relatable curmudgeons (Think a Man Called Ove) who will charm you in spite of  themselves.
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An interesting story of a 70 yr old man trying to find his bliss. Divorced and loving removed from his 3 children and exwife, the professor finds his life in a tailspin and resorts to a very different place looking for answers. I found Chandra to be a wonderful character and his soul searching poignant and thought provoking.
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