Sunday, 30 December, 2012

Thought for the Day 30th December, 2012 : The Idea Prayer

Lord, give me the courage to follow good ideas,
the strength to let go of bad ideas,
And the wisdom to differentiate between the two.

Saturday, 22 December, 2012

The perfect car playlist

If your daily commute is of more than 15 mins and you don't want to feel helpless about the song choice of the RJ ( read mostly punjabi or punjabi masquerading as bollywood), you need to play your own music in the car. The familiarity of the song is an important attribute for it to get selected for your car playlist. The playlist has a very important role to play. It helps you forget every motherf****** bas**** who doesn't know how to drive. It helps you accept the inevitable. It makes you smug in the knowledge that you have a weapon to  fight this maddening traffic. Thus, the playlist must be carefully selected. And it should be universal, a lil something for every mood. So here is the framework for the perfect car playlist. 

Song No.1 : The Starter
It shouldn't be too slow or too fast. Just the right rhythm to ease you into the long ride ahead. Probably something with a strong beat but a melody as well. Something which also signifies the freedom you feel as the day is ending. I would go with Wake Up Sid -"Kya karoo" or "Beautiful Day" by U2.

Song No.2 :  The Cruiser
A hard core smooth track, no apologies. A rocking number that sets the groove. Makes you feel like an underworld don with the world in your control. Wearing metaphorical Aviators, if you will. I would go with "Can't Stop" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or "Satisfaction" by Rolling Stones or "Have a nice day" Bon Jovi.

Song No.3 : The Funk
Peppy, funky head nodding / bobbing number , to bring you back from the dark side. My suggestion " Hey soul sister" by Train.

Song No.4 : The Club Anthem
Whatever might be current or your personal favorite.I would go with "The club can't  handle me" by FLORIDA.

Song No.5 : The Karaoke Favorite
Now you are probably all-in the traffic and there is no option but to just keep going. You need to occupy your mind. An all time favorite sing along song. Which you have to sing on full volume, yes even the high bits where your voice cracks and the parts where you mumble the words or make up rhyming substitutes and come back strongly on the chorus. I pick "Ain't no mountain high" by The Temptations. 

Song No.6 : The Soother
You are driving mechanically. Hopefully now the peek-a-boo traffic is a thing of the past. Now a soothing number, something which lets you drift and think of higher things. I personally like Norah Jones for this. " Sunrise" or " Come away with me" or "Iktara" from Wake-up Sid.

Song No.7 : The Local
You've reached that stage in your journey where you accept that you have a love-hate relationship with your city. Its a b***h but it's your b***h. For Delhi the classic " Dilli " by Rabbi Shergill or even "Dilli" from No one killed Jessica. For Mumbai "We are the Bhaaiys".

Song No.8 : The Diva / Stud Song 
Yeah baby, you rock! Own it. For the ladies " I'm a b****h, I'm a lover" by Alanis Morissette or "Video" by India Arie  or "Maneater" by Nelly Furtado. For the gentlemen "I'm a man" by Black Strobe.
Song No.9 :The New Hottie

Something which has caught your fancy but you know it's a short term thing. For instance " I got the moooooooves like Jagger" by Maroon 5.
Song No.10 : The Motivator

Its almost over, you made it. You're home and the traffic is behind you. A song which motivates you, which makes you think about tomorrow, which makes you want to start afresh and do something great. " Tu dhoop he" from Taree Zameen Pe or "Aaaj kal zindagi" from Wake up Sid or "Walk on" by U2 or "Miniature Disaster" by KT Tunstall.

Song No.11: The Guilty Pleasure
We all have one. We all have more than one. The cheesy songs from when we were young. The lyrics etched into your mind like a tattoo. Most likely to be Bryan Adams or Shania Twain or even Britney or (God Forbid) Blackstreet boys. Go ahead. Give in to it. Show me the feeling of being lonely! Cause it's my life and I am going to be 18 till I die so baby hit me one more time.

Song No.12: The Dirty Secret
The song you secretly like. You wouldn't admit even to yourself you like a song like this. What is wrong with me? How can I like this song? But you do. You feet start tapping, you know the words and you sing it in your head. This is your dirty secret you wouldn't tell your best friend. This is also a test song.  To test if he or she will love you unconditionally, tell them you like this song. My dirty secret - punjabi songs whose lyrics I don't even understand - gabru, kala chachma, woofer-amplifier( for purely academic purposes), and so on.

Happy Driving! 

P.S. In case you couldn't tell, the soundtrack of Wake-up Sid is my absolute favorite car music. I played it morning-evening for a year and I wore out the CD so I went and got a new one. I still play it atleast once a week.

Tuesday, 4 December, 2012

The sad(?) truth

I have been spending more time reading about writing than actually writing. But you can't learn to swim by reading a how-to manual.

Monday, 22 October, 2012

Tuesday, 25 September, 2012

I'm a sinner, I'm a saint

Having an unfortunately uncontrollable interest in rules, I had a set of them for reading. No, they were not framed on a wall of my room. They were unconscious thin strings tugging at me from time to time. But I noticed I have effectively broken all those rules now and I am marching to my own drummer. So I decided to do some myth busting, because when it comes to reading, there are no rules, no sins. Just you and the book having a conversation.
Rule Number 1 : Thou shall finish what thou started
We have all been taught that once you start you gotta finish. Don't give up! Don't give in! Just power through to the other side. And this advice also finds its way into our book reading style. I remember the first book I started but couldn't finish. I tried, tried and tried again. Yes that is three tries. On my last try I had about 200 pages to the finish line. But I was too tired to go on. And frankly, I was feeling angry at myself and questioning my motives for wanting to finish the book. My nemesis: The Lord of the Rings (complete). Somehow the songs, the large number of characters and the small print of my edition wore me out and I quit even though the light at the end of tunnel was in sight. I figured I knew as much about the book as I needed to know so it didn't matter if I met my milestone. So though in life it is good advice, I have stopped caring about finishing a book if it starts to feel like punishment. Life is too short and the good books out there too many.
Rule Number 2: Thou shall read one book at a time
Before I became the master of my finances, I had to tell my parent(s) which book I wanted, what it was about and promise them that I wouldn't "waste" it and that I would read it. As a result of these constraints, I used to read one book at a time. Because well, when you go back to the afore mentioned parent, he or she will inevitably ask what happened to the last book you bought. Ever since I used a significant portion of my first pay-EFT (electronic fund transfer, no cheques now) on buying books, I don’t stop myself from buying whatever catches my fancy and consequently I tend to read multiple books at the same time now. My currently reading list is: White teeth by Zadie Smith, How to read like a writer by Francine Prose, Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter......Once in while a book comes along which commands my full attention and once in a while a book comes along which demands my full attention and at such times I unknowingly or obediently (as the case maybe) put the others on hold and treat the book to my undivided mind. I quite enjoy having multiple reads to cater to my multiple moods. To have something light to read when I am on a break from something heavy. To lubricate the channels, to sharpen the mind. And there is also the pleasant surprise of cross-pollination. Ideas from one book inspiring you to have ideas about the subject matter in the other.
Rule number 3: Thou shall find popular works as great as their reviews or hate so called trashy books
I was shocked to discover the literary world at large did not consider “Atlas Shrugged" to be a master piece and Any Rand to be a hero like I did. I was ignorant of this fact for 24 years of my life. However, I realized that doesn't change the fact that I loved the book, it gave me hope and inspired me and helped me through a difficult time. Also no matter how many gushing reviews I’ve read, I just don’t get what the big deal is about some books. For example Catcher in the Rye or even To kill a mocking bird. These are wonderful books and I liked them but not enough to put on my all-time favourites list. Maybe I read them too late or with too distracted a mind. Whatever the reason may be, I didn't get converted. I used to feel bad if a review trashed a book I liked and I used to feel intellectually on a lower plane if I didn't appreciate a Classic. But now I have accepted that my favourite book may not be popularly perceived to be a great book and I might never understand what the everlasting charms of another book are. You see, either we fit or we don't.
Rule Number 4: Thou shall read the book before watching the movie
This is a rule I still mostly maintain but it's not written in stone anymore. Some stories are just too fast paced and / or too poorly written to ever come to life with the written word. They need human brain, heart and flesh to become digestible. This is true of very few books and they might not be worth reading in the first place. A book which challenged this rule was The Bourne Identity. I just could not follow the twists and turns of plot. It felt like fast forwarding through a foreign language documentary. But I am told the movie is not half bad. This rule does hold for the Harry Potter series though. Strictly. It is somewhat like the Boggart which took the form of the thing you were most scared of. Reading it will show you a world only you can see.
P.S. I might be better off just watching the Lord of the Ring movies. I think I have earned the right.
Rule Number 5: Thou shall remember a book forever
Over the years, as I read more and more books, I realize some of them slip out of my memory. I read “Gone with the wind” on the terrace of my house, in the winters when our house was under going renovation and exams were looming. I remember the warmth of the sun, the pages of my book almost alight with the sun rays, the burnt vision after spending hours reading in the noon sun, the sauciness of Scarlet and the scale of events of the book. But today I don't remember the name of all characters, the places or even some of the sub-plots. So if I read the book today, I''ll still find it a refreshing read. It used to bother me that I had to google some of the specifics of the books I had read, sometimes twice. But maybe that is my mind's way of optimizing space. If it can be googled, and if it doesn't affect your functioning, no need to store it.
 P.S. Maybe most of you do remember all the books you read, so this is just me trying to make myself feel better about my selective amnesia.
Rule Number 6: Thou shall start at the beginning
This one holds for collections of short-stories or books with loosely connected chapters. There was something almost illicit about opening a page at random and reading from that point on. Needless to say it is probably only of experimental value to do so in a novel. But with short stories and non-fiction, I feel free to dive where ever I want. Though there is a sense of satisfaction in reading a book from start to finish, once in a while, with the right book, I can take the leap of faith.
Rule Number 7: Thou shall read new instead of re-reading old
This is a temptation I give in to. And I used to believe in it strongly till some time ago. There is a large number of books I want to read before I stop breathing and if I just keep re-reading the ones I've already read, well I will run out of time. I still used to turn to comfort reads again and again ( P.G.Wodehouse, Matilda by Roald Dahl, etc) but I wouldn't want to waste time reading a whole book again. But recently I re-read some parts of Anna Karenina, and I felt as if it was the first time I was reading them (maybe this holds only for me, see point 5 above). I also catch a glimpse of the person I was when I had read the book the last time. The words I didn't know, the things I liked most, the details I missed (deliberate and otherwise). So it is like a mini journey into the past - mostly embarrassing but also smile-inducing.

Wednesday, 5 September, 2012

Discovery of a center of pleasure

I recently realized one major reason why reading gives me such a high. When I read something which manages to articulate my own half baked thought - the silhouette of a thought actually, in a beautiful manner, I experience a kind of "Exactly!" moment within my head. I look up to the writer with admiration for having gone beyond the end of my intellectual air strip and taken off and at the same time I look at the writer with kinship for having a similar algorithm of brain function. This sensation happened twice in quick succession and caused me to stumble upon the location of this particular center of pleasure. Once when I was reading a book excerpt of Zadie Smith's NW on and I came across this line:

" Of course, it's harder for a man to be objective. They have the problem of pride."

And another time when I was reading an article called "How is the critic free" by Caleb Crain on the Paris Review blog and I came across this line:

"I’d argue, to the contrary, that readers choose their favorite publication in part because of these constraints—because they trust that its reviewers share certain political and aesthetic touchstones."

And both times it felt like someone has penciled in the features in an outline I saw, written lyrics to a melody I heard and both times it tingled!

Friday, 31 August, 2012

Thought for the day 31st August, 2012 : Battles

Pick your battles: ones you will fight to death, ones you will fight till its convenient, ones you will fight whenever it is convenient and ones you won't fight at all.

Tuesday, 31 July, 2012

Thought for the day 31st July, 2012 : Rewrite

First you master the rules, then you break the rules and finally you rewrite the rules.

Friday, 27 July, 2012

A la recherche du ciel Part-II : Spell & Bound, SDA Market

I went to Spell & Bound last sunday, the charming bookstore in SDA market (opposite IITD). The moment you walk in, the book-lined wall will delight you. I wished there was a moving ladder and I could just keep sliding from one end to the other. But when I got closer, I couldn't read the titles of the books that were up above the world so high!  And I need to be able to take a book out without assistance from a long-legged shop assistance. But it was not to be. The book selection was good though. More Kafka, Murakami, Pamuk than Shledon, Archer and Grisham. Though it was a planned visit, I hadn't prepared for it. What this means is that I didn't have a list of books I wanted to buy or a Test Book*. So I ended up picking Anil's Ghost for Ondaatje's poetic prose, "The art of fiction" by Ayn Rand purely because I didn't know she had written such a book (or more precisely, given lectures on such a topic) and The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction (the first one) for its beautiful cover illustration. I believe you should judge a book by its cover but not punish it. And I made my friend buy The book which must not be named (Part-I).There is a tiny cafe on the first floor and maybe if I was lingering over coffee and dessert reading a book I might have liked the book shop more. But for that I have Full-Circle and Cafe Turtle.It does have a basement section but I think that it is mostly children's books and "special interest" topics. I confess I was in a hurry but honestly it wasn't love at first sight. And unlike Joey, it was too vertical and I wanted it to be more horizontal. So the search continues..

* Test Book : It is a book which I have not been able to find in bookshops and which is my test for the how far from Chetan Bhagat and Dan Brown the bookstore is willing to go.

P.S. I have nothing against Sheldon, Archer and Grisham or Dan Brown and though I do have something against Bhagat, I have read almost all of their books. (Except Brown. After the Da Vinci Code, I just couldn't). It's just that I'm moving on.

Tuesday, 24 July, 2012

Thought for the day 24th July, 2012 : Need

Sometimes the need to be needed is stronger than the need to have someone you can depend on.  

Friday, 20 July, 2012

Sorry for the inconvenient

If I tell you I will sell you a mobile phone with its charger for Rs.10,000 and then I don't give you the promised charger, what would that constitute? That would constitute stealing because you I lied to you and took your money without giving you anything in return. If I felt 10,000 was not enough for me to give you both the phone and the charger, I should have told you that I am going to need extra 2000 for giving you the charger and then you could have had a choice as to whether you want to pay Rs. 2000 extra for the charger. Nothing is stopping me from quoting any price I want for my product . If customers feel my product is not worth its price, they will simply not buy it. All this seems simple enough. Substitute mobile phone & charger with the services offered by a household cook, a car cleaner, a sales representative, a maintenance engineer, Airtel Digital TV,basically your not-so-friendly neighbourhood service provider.

When the product in question is a service, how come we just feel disappointed and not outraged? How come we don't scream "Chor! Chor!". The quality of service across the spectrum is poor and we grudgingly accept it. We crib, complain and the most extreme form of protest we undertake is threatening a poor call-centre executive with consumer court proceedings. (I once asked a poor call-centre executive to spell her name and told her I am suing her and that she can expect summons form the court. She replied saying she was "sorry for the inconvenient" ) and writing a strong letter of complaint to the company ("I am shocked and dismayed to see such poor quality and service from a reputed company like yours") . In case of the cook or the maintenance engineer, we can't even do that lest we displease the moody gods of customer service executives and incur their wrath in the form of a untold resignation by the cook or a compressor-less refrigerator filled with now-rotting food.

If service providers feel that this is the best they can offer in the price we are paying, then its time for differential pricing. When you call customer care, along with "Press 1 for english", the kind and enthusiastic recorded-voice lady should also say " Press 1 for standard, Press 2 for gold and Press 3 for platinum quality experience". Standard would be "sorry for the inconvenient", gold would be "sorry for the inconvenience" and they would try to solve your problem and platinum, well they would agree to come on a sunday at a godly hour, they would fix the problem once and for all and they would compliment you on your glowing skin. When you take on your cook, she could tell you about three packages : rare, medium rare and well-done and you could pick a package based on your taste and pocket.

Maybe if we classify poor service as a form of theft and create strict non-acceptance of such theft, service producers will become more accountable for their product and realize that delivering poor quality service is as objectionable as delivering only one shoe out of a pair. Maybe then we can hope to actually get what we paid for.

P.S. My Airtel-digital TV showed "No signal" last Thursday and I paid a service engineer Rs.100 to come and change the angle of the dish by a quarter of a degree. This is the fourth time this has happened this year. Yesterday I got home and switched on my TV and the poor thing had gone all blue because again it had no signal.

Wednesday, 18 July, 2012

Thursday, 12 July, 2012

Condition of my Condition*

If I don't read, I can't write,
If I don't write, I can't feel normal.

* From the song "Just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in" by "The First Edition" . First heard it when HP told me about it.

Thursday, 28 June, 2012

Thought for the day June 28th, 2012 : The answer

Only you will know the question of your life, your universe and everything and only you will find the answer.

Wednesday, 13 June, 2012

A la recherche du ciel Part-I : The Bookshop, Jor Bagh

I finally visited "The Book Shop" in Jor Bagh. I didn't have the fortune to visit The Bookshop when it was the 'it' shop of Khan Market. It closed down before I could get a chance. Well do you know how there is a Hindu temple custom to do revolutions in the temple compound around the temple building. It's called "pradakshinalu" in Telugu. Circumambulations? Anyway, that's how I paid my obeisance to the shop. I spent a total of one hour looking for it even though I had figured out exactly where it was on google map. When I hit the ground I couldn't find any of the landmarks I had identified on the map. Plus the autowallahs didn't help. I was directed to Jor Bagh Khanna market and the  Lodhi colony main market, but not to the Jor Bagh market. One guy even tried to convince me it's called Khan Market. I finally called up HP and got detailed instructions.

For all you people who might be tempted to visit: Get to Lodhi road. Cross the red light right after IHC(assuming your orientation is such that you are moving from IHC towards Safdar Jung tomb) Stay on the Left. Wait for a Sign which says "Jor Bagh Colony". Take a left into Jor Bagh colony on the road right after a post office. Drive on. And Voila! The first thing you will see will be The Bookshop on your right.

My heart took flight the moment I spotted it. I haven't been to a book shop in months (barring bookshop chains and airport book shops) ,ever since the advent of Flipkart I think. Somehow the gods have ordained that those who live on the wrong side of the Yamuna don't deserve book shops. So I have to travel a minimum of 10 kms to get to a generic book shop (one of the chains) to find out they don't have the book I want. I had read wonderful things about The Book shop and I had been wanting to go there for a long time. I even checked out their (its?his?her?) FB page ( which indicates some serious interest on my part). Finally I was here. It felt like a reunion the moment I stepped in. Even though it was small and cosy, I could have spent hours in there. I found so many book on the shelves I haven't seen in the chain shops, books that eventually drove me to e-retail. I have three unread books, seven half read books and two three-quarter read books at home; I still bought three books. I wanted to buy more.  As I stepped out of the shop, I saw a notice board with cut outs of book reviews from news papers and book jackets pinned up on it. It made a lovely farewell note. In another life , I could have been a writer (maybe struggling writer) and the owner of my own bookshop (the bookshop being a source of income and the writing being a source of pleasure). I wish The Book Shop was closer to my home so I  could visit more often. But maybe then it wouldn't have been safe from the Yamuna. So I'll just find reasons to be in the neighbourhood and drop by.

P.S. I ran into the Delhiwalla  in the shop. (I guess "ran" into is a wrong word for someone who doesn't know you. Spotted : D)

P.S. This is Part-I of a series I plan to do. The title is French for "In search of heaven", inspired by the title of Marcel Proust's mammoth master piece "A la recherche du temps perdu " I am on a mission to find my sanctuary, my vacation, my movie hall, my couch all rolled into one, in short my favorite bookshop. A place where I can be found when I cant be found anywhere else.

Monday, 11 June, 2012

My sweety poo

Those of you who have heard couples using terms of endearment(TOE) in public raise your hand. Those of you who have found them nauseous and pretentious raise your hand. Those of you who have made fun of such couples raise your hand. Those who are themselves now on the other side and calling their partner sweety poo or honey bunny raise your hand.

My interest is in a chicken-egg question of relationships. Does one start calling the other by cutesy pet names because of the closeness or does calling each other by cutesy pet names cause you to come closer? There seem to be two approaches to the sweety poo way. Some couples start off by calling each other sugary sweet grammatically suspect names. The moment the thing goes online, you're  rechristened. Its a new feeling and it takes a little time to sink in. In the first few days, you will suddenly stop what you are doing and have a "Oh I am not single any more" moment. Even if you were friends before, its a new relationship and the underlying principles have been tweaked. So a seemingly premature usage of the TOE may actually bring you closer. Its parallel to the leap of faith you've taken in entering the relationship. You jump with your eyes closed and hope to land on a soft feather bed.

Other couples float into the TOE usage unknowingly. You won't even remember when you started calling her with nonsensical names no one else on the planet understands. In fact you will be coining new TOEs which are not even nouns but just sounds. One fine day, you'll call out to him or her across a shop and not by his/her name. Both of you will turn a bright shade of pink and the rest is romantic history.  Its a natural transition that happens under the surface, unannounced and unacknowledged. You are now doomed to an eternity of funny name calling.

Take a minute here to pause and think of what you call him or her in your head. Name?baby?him?A TOE of your invention?Whether you started from sweety poo or eventually strolled into it, you and your sweety poo can always make fun of that lovey-dovey couple sitting at the next table.

Thursday, 7 June, 2012

Thought for the day June 7th, 2012

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Between your most optimistic hope and your most pessimistic fear.

Tuesday, 5 June, 2012

Book Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I don't remember how I picked up this book in the first place but I am mighty glad I did. As the tittle suggests, it is the story of a hermaphrodite, Callie, who spends the first fourteen years of her life as a girl, till puberty hits and brings many surprises. The story actually starts with the protagonist's grandparents when they migrate from their burning hometown in Greece to the United States, forgetting everything and starting completely afresh. The book tracks the story of this Greek-American family through three generations and at the same time gives the readers a glimpse of the story of America, in particular the city of Detroit, from the 1920s to present. Though some of the issues Callie deals with are specific to her situation, I am sure many of us have been through the process of self doubt, self loathing, confusion and finally self discovery. Do you remember the feeling of feeling out of place, wondering whether our normal is the universal normal and desperately wanting to find one person who understands and accepts us? The ending is bittersweet, but also hopeful. In addition to the interesting plot, unique characters and different setting, I really liked the style of writing. Its been written like a memoir, looking back on life. The writing is humorous in some places, dramatic in others. The names of the charactors are quirky and wonderful : Chapter Eleven (Callie's brother), Lefty (Callie's grandfather) and Obscure Object (Callie's love interest).  There were beautiful phrases in the book like "family legacy of precise, codified, thourough worrying" and "emotional physics". My favorite line from the book,

Whereas I, even now, persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to catch the rainbow of consciousness in a jar. The only trust fund I have is this story, and I am dipping into the principical, spending it all..

Friday, 1 June, 2012

Thought for the day June 1st, 2012

This thought for the day is dedicated to my heart parrot.

The only power in the world that can stop you from getting what you want is you.

P.S. I am back, as promised.

Tuesday, 24 April, 2012

New York, New York

New York Times now limits access to its online content. Every visitor to the site is allowed 10 free articles a month. After that, for access to various sections of the site, you need to subscribe. Before this happened, I didn't realize I was reading so many articles/ blogs on NY Times, but apparently I was because I finished my meagre quota of 10 articles within the first week of the month. The subscription is 99 cents/month ( about Rs. 53)for the first three months and after three months a user will be charged 3.75 USD /month (about Rs.200). I am not saying this is prohibitively expensive, but considering that I was getting all this for free, I'm feeling bad. I feel like a kid who has been playing with the neighbour's kid's video game and now the kid won't let me play anymore. I guess its time to go buy my own.

Friday, 13 April, 2012

Thought for the day April 13, 2012 : Something to look forward to

Even if you have the best job, the best relationship, the best house, the best car, the best insert-item-of-your-choice, your days can still get hectic, irritating, depressing, boring,long and tiring. What helps to make it better is a little planned treat.  A small boost, a little pick-me-up. It need not be ground-breaking. Maybe just a delicious meal in your lunchbox, an ice cream cone, a new stationery item, a phone call, a haircut, an episode of a favorite show, your I-look-skinny-in-this outfit, a replacement for a broken gadget, a nap, the latest edition of a magazine, a new song playlist on your mp3 player, dinner with a friend on a weekday or a book. Just a small unit of time in the day which you view with positive anticipation. That's all you need to make it through the day, through the obstacle course life can become- a little something to look forward to.

Wednesday, 11 April, 2012

Why we drive like we do

I read this article in the paper today, about why we drive like we do. Though it did bring out some interesting points, it was far from an interesting read. I do empathize with the POV but it wasn't well put. So I wanted to do my own take on Why we drive like we do? I think the primary feature is the spirit of 'survival of the fittest' with which we approach our roads. Everyone on the road seems to be raging a war against a personal enemy. A Multitude of 'David's fighting their 'Goliath's. The common man feels like the world as an entity is out to get him, waiting to trick him, fool him, take away his hard earned money and replace it with short lived satisfaction of the Chinese variety. And this attitude springs from the fact that we have a large population. Because there are more than a billion of us, fighting for the same resources - the same limited supply of roti, kapda, makan and ofcourse sadak - a spirit of "every man for himself" has infiltrated the way we drive. So no one is willing to follow the rules. People feel the rules are tools to deprive us of our right to drive as we please. The feeling on the road is that if we don't step up and grab our right, we will be left behind and our neighbour will win. So one reason we are such bad drivers is that we are such good reproducers.

Another factor which contributes to our hellish driving skills is genetic. It has been transferred down generation after generation. And that is the Cult of the Bajaj scooter. Since the Chetak was Indian common man's first automatic transport, the skill of driving a scooter has been embedded into our brains. And passed down from father to son to son to son and now to daughter also. So even though we might be driving a hatchback or a sedan or a truck or even a tanker, we feel like we can squeeze into any 2 inch gap and get ahead. On the road you might be in a Merc, but you can feel in your genes that you are riding your trusty Chetak. The belief in the maneuverability of the vehicle, which was justified in the age of the Chetak, still holds strong. And often causes people to come dangerously close to one another.

So the answer to why we drive like we do : Our talent of Reproducing and Our Genetic Inheritance of the Cult of the Chetak.

Sunday, 1 April, 2012

You gotta work it!

People can be divided into two categories based on the role work or professional life plays in their life. One type consists of people who derive their identity from the work they do. Whenever they introduce themselves they start with :Hi, I am so-and-so, I am an Engineer/ Doctor/Teacher/Dancer. They derive their sense of achievement from the recognition they get for their work. A challenging project sets their blood pumping and their heart racing. They love the idea of a task well done. Now these people are not workaholics, because work doesn't seem work to them. They enjoy it. And the most embarrassing thing about them : They don't hate Monday mornings! For such people to be happy, their work needs to be a manifestation of their passion. The work they do has to make a difference in the world they hope to change. Unless this happens, they will burn themselves out slaving away at a job they don't like.

The other kind is not limited by what they do. Work is just one slice of their pizza. Professional life is important but its also just a means to an end.  They live for the weekend, when they get to live out their true life. Vacation Planning gets the attention it deserves. Their goals are not defined by performance appraisals and deadlines. They have hobbies and interests but they prefer to keep their extra-curricular activities and work separate and they are happy with that.  The don't want to turn their pleasure into work. They are fiercely passionate about one thing or another. They have a complex and rich life outside work. They socialize, travel and recreate in non-work related ways. They stop thinking about work the moment they leave office on Friday (or Saturday for the unfortunate ones) and don't start again till Monday morning.

Now I am not passing judgement on whether one type is better. Whether one type is more effective at the work place. Whether one type has a healthier personal life and work-life balance. I am only bringing out the types there are so that you can figure out which one you are. If you are type one, you better find a way to make your passion work for you otherwise you're going to be investing around 70% of your waking hours (and sometimes even your sleeping hours) into something which doesn't bring you joy. And if you are type two, don't get stuck in an unfairly demanding thankless job or under a sadistic boss. And remember having fun is work too and you are obligated to make that effort. Either way you gotta work it! 

Wednesday, 28 March, 2012

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I've been somewhat busy with things so I haven't been reading as much I would like to. I am almost halfway through " Why the West Rules for now" by Ian Morris. But its a big book (in small print) with graphs, maps and tables. And though it is very interesting and I will finish it, I wanted a quick fix in the meantime. So I decided to pick up "The Happiness Project". With such a title I was sure of a happy ending. As the back of the book describes, its a cross between a Self-Help book and a Memoir. 

Gretchen Rubin, a Lawyer tuned writer realizes that though she's not unhappy in life, she's not as happy as she could be. Since she also realizes that like most ordinary people, she can't take off on a three-country self discovery trip like Ms. Gilbert, she decides to make small changes in her existing life to remove sources of guilt, worry and negative feeling and enhance and introduce sources of happy feelings. I don't look down on self help books. In fact I strongly feel that for some people and for all people in some situations, a book might hold the answer you are looking for. But this book belongs more in the self-help shelves, than fiction or memoir shelves. Also, whether you will like this book or not depends alot on the phase of life you are going through. I am currently in a "Makeover" phase and I want to make big sweeping changes so the small easy-to-execute happiness steps didn't appeal to me that much. I think I will re-read it when I'm 40. 

The book also has one line summaries of almost all studies published on happiness and that makes an interesting read. Some of the resolutions and "truths" she adopts will definitely bring happiness to anyone who makes the effort. Plus, shes very human in the book. She fails repeatedly, she's mean and grumpy even when she's trying not to be and she accepts herself and her limitations. The best point this book makes is that being happy is something we should all pursue actively. Waiting passively for good things to come and happiness to spread is not such a good idea. You are responsible for your own happiness. I would recommend this book for a lazy vacation. You could read it if you're looking for practical and simple ways to make your days  more pleasant. And I would also recommend this book as a gift to all Mommies. As far feel good factor goes, it was worth every Rupee. I was happy all the while I was curled up reading the book.

Sunday, 25 March, 2012

Papa Kehte Hain..

All a typical Indian parent wants is for his/her child to have a steady income job. Its the quintessential Indian (Middle-Class) Dream. One Degree- Doctor/Engineer/Architect/Lawyer/Accountant, One Job, One marriage equals One happy life. The dream now comes in a few more versions- Artist Version, Entrepreneur Version, Sports Version, etc. But Mummy-Daddy just want to see you "settled". 

What with the UP elections, rail budget and The budget, I got to thinking about the people who become politicians. How come we don't see a pattern of natural distribution, the law of averages at work in politics? How come there is no bell curve of the type of people who participate in politics? They just seem the cluster around one extreme. And its not the good one. But what if it changed and politics became a noble profession? Or even better, Can politics become one of the accepted professions of the Indian (Middle-Class) dream?

Yes it can! How about this. We open schools, colleges and universities and start awarding degrees to students to participate in Indian Politics. Bachelor of Politics, Masters In politics and even Doctorates. All those interested  can join these institutions and can learn subjects relevant to their future as leaders and policy makers of our country. The curriculum would include History, Political Science, Economics, Civics,Economic, some Maths, etc. There would be electives for students interested in agriculture or mining or transport or finance for students aiming at those portfolios in the cabinet. And at the end, there would be placements. Come day Zero, all political parties would come for recruiting these students. They would offer adequate compensation, provide perks and of course, you might want to join them simply for their ideology. Some students would want to take an entrepreneurial route and start their own political party. 

Once in the party ranks they would be given roles and responsibilities based on their interest and aptitude. Some might go into data analysis, some into marketing and building brand value, some into managing the party's finances. Some may be put into the party's leadership program, to be groomed into potential electoral candidates. Now no profession can hope to qualify for the Indian (Middle-Class) Dream if there isn't a steady monthly income involved. So as far as salaries for these students go, the party would need funds. The party could be an organized enterprise getting donations from supporters or having business interests of its own. Of course for this to work, the donations that individuals or institutions make to political parties should be legalized, taxed, audited and published. Thus the problem of the rich buying political power would be reduced if not eliminated.

This idea of mine is neither perfect nor fully practical.But atleast it will give us an option of educated and aware candidates chosen through a process of merit. Also this would make politics an accepted job option for the Aam Indian Aadmi just like any other job. Soon matrimonial ads will read "Wanted fair homely bride for senior manager working in National Political Party with 6 figure salary". And when Aunty asks Monu Beta "What do you want to be when you grow up? Monu will say " Urban Development Minister" and Monu's Mummy-Daddy would smile proudly.

Friday, 23 March, 2012

Thought for the Day March 23, 2012 : Worry

This thought is inspired by a the book I'm reading currently. ("The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Ruben, more about this later)

Often I have found that when I worry about what will happen, how something will turn out, will it work out, will I be able to do it, I am actually feeling lazy and reluctant to do all the hard work which will be involved to achieve that goal. I already know how much effort is required to do it, I'm just delaying the moment in time when I'll have to start that work.

Monday, 19 March, 2012

Thought for the day March 19, 2012 : Mind Space

Your mind space is your most valuable asset. Don't clutter it with ugly things. Don't keep things you don't use. Don't let squatters live rent free. Don't let trespassers outlive their welcome. Guard it fiercely and keep it safe, it houses your soul and thoughts and memories of your loved ones. Use it creatively and efficiently. Fill it with beautiful things. Open the windows sometimes, to let in some fresh air and sunlight. Put on some nice music and lets get to work.

Thursday, 15 March, 2012

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do

It irritates me when I keep checking my favorite blogs for updates, but there is nothing new. And when I get a little busy and lose track, or lose hope and stop checking,  there will be a string of new posts and I would feel left out. I would like to know in advance when a new post is expected, so I wouldn't get my hopes up on the other days nor would I miss out on the new releases. But now I realize, its somewhat difficult to organize your posting schedule like that. You never know when inspiration will hit you. For that matter you never know when a writer's block will hit you. You see,the flow of  ideas is like the flow of susu (pee). You never know when its going to come. And once it comes, you cant stop it! So for better or for worse, I've decided to keep two official posting days : Sundays and Wednesdays. I will try to put up new posts on these days as far as possible. Though I don't promise predictability, I do offer less uncertainty. And yes, the irony that today is neither Sunday nor Wednesday hasn't escaped me. But  a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

P.S. I realize this post assumes I have readers (yes reader-s, plural), but what the hell, I can dream big. Someday there might be people (yes, again, more than one) who would wait eagerly for my next post. So this post is dedicated to that day.

Tuesday, 6 March, 2012

Wisdom from the road - 6th March

Seen behind a beautiful truck this morning. Ladies, pay attention!

"Rani bana kar rakh, Raja bana doongi"

Monday, 5 March, 2012

Green is good

I was talking to a friend of mine who has just finished college and is about to start a new job. And she says she'll miss college. And I'm wishing I was at that stage in life, about to start a new glamorous job. Another friend went back to college after working for a while and she says she misses the days when she didn't have to bother with assignments and tests. When you are in college, you cant wait to start working. When you are working, you want to go back to school. When you are single, you just want to meet the right person. And when you are in a relationship, sometimes you miss the single life. You got the spaghetti, but the pizza looks better. You live in Delhi, and dream of shifting to Bombay. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. You want what you can't have. And they want you to believe, the grass only looks super green, but once you get there, its going to be your daily boring medium green, just like before. But is it always so?

One of my favorite quotes is: " Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them". For example, I'm pretty sure I cant become an Olympic swimmer now, but you see I never wanted to. So the only dreams which will come in you head are the ones which are within your reach. (Here I mean true heart-stopping soul-stirring dreams. Wanting to become richer than Warren Buffet and hotter than Brad Pitt do not qualify as heart-stopping soul-stirring dreams. They are just the means to an end). So when you see the other side, and think to yourself, I haven't seen that shade of green in my pasture, and I think I like it, maybe its nature, inciting you, to go ahead and have that dream. Because maybe you were supposed to be on the other side all along.

Thursday, 1 March, 2012

Are you ready for that sort of intimacy?

People rhapsodise about treasures they find in second hand book stores. Secret hidden dens filled with glittering diamonds buried under mounds of coal. First editions, signed copies and even books with previous readers' notes. They say it adds to the charm of the book. Its interesting to see where the book has been. The marks of antiquity, wear and personalization by other readers lend an air of sophistication, mystique and romance to the book. As if the book needed it.
I have never liked 'previously owned books'. When I read a book, I own it. The story that I read in it, no one else would find that story in the book. That is why books are different from movies. In a movie, you're watching what Harry Potter looked like to the director of the movie, but you see in my head, he was cuter. And Hermione was definitely not this pretty. The visualization is in your scope. Its your right. Its the pleasure. Its the reason why no good book ever becomes old or obsolete. A book is reborn every time a new reader reads it. So when I'm reading, I don't want to be disturbed by what some other reader thought or felt. I want to form my own first impression. I don't want ready-made insight, I want to realize it on my own. I want to be in communication with the characters of the book. Sometimes with the author. But not with someone who read it and left little notes along the way. I love to discuss a book with others when I'm done. Learn about the story they found in it. But while I'm reading it, its just me and the book, and we like our privacy.
This is another reason I don't like lending books which I have marked with my notes and thoughts to just anyone. Its intimate. Its like giving them a map of the wilderness of your brain. Its a flowchart of the way your brain functions. And you really have to ask yourself. Are you ready for that sort of intimacy?

Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

Karma - The First Law

You may or may not believe in the Hindu concept of Karma. You do good things and good things will happen to you, you do bad things, bad things will happen to you. The traditional Hindu concept goes more like if you do bad deeds you will be born as a lesser creature in your next life (an earthworm maybe). And if you save up enough good deeds, you will be able to escape from the tedious cycle of rebirth and death and your soul will be free. Though the thought is tempting, I think we can safely assume most of us are not going to do enough good deeds to become freely floating souls. So the compact version of the concept works pretty well. What goes around, comes around. Good things happen to good people. Because without this assurance, without this insurance against the cruelties of fate, we would never tread the straight and narrow path of good. You know for every factor in your environment which is in your control, there are 17 which are not. So you do your time, and leave the those 17 to the powers that be, the justice of the universe, god, spirit, whatever you want to call it. You see,when Hindus started talking about karma, they were basically stating the law of conservation of energy. It as provable and as logical as that. Energy can neither be created, nor destroyed. It can only be transformed from one form to another. Karmic chips can neither be created nor destroyed, they can only be transformed, from one form to another. At the end of the day, when you do something good ( and by that I don't mean charity or selfless service only, I mean something constructive), you convert the energy of the food you've eaten, the sun you soaked, the water you drank ( the vodka too) into good karma chips, which can be later cashed in ( transformed) into positive results you want. Similarly, when you do some thing destructive, please note, its destructive only if it was done out of malicious intent*, you transform your body-mind energy into bad karma chips and you never know when the universe will want to cash in those. So karma is not a boomerang, its just a practical illustration of the good old First Law.

* If you didn't have bad intentions when you acted, you cant be held responsible for the universe having screwed it up.

P.S. The title of the post reminds of the era in Hindi movies where all titles were single words followed by an English definition- Duad-the run, Zurm-the crime, Mard-the man,Jaal-the trap,etc etc.

After putting up this post, I got similar reactions from two of my friends. Things were not going so well for them at that time and the question was " What did I do do to deserve this? If your theory holds, I must have dome something downright awful for this to happen to me". I know both of them are wonderful people and they wouldn't hurt any one on purpose. So I am telling you what I told them. Sometimes, you get sucked into someone else's karmic cycle. Look at Sita (yes from the Ramayan). She got kidnapped, got false accused of sleeping with the enemy and her husband left her. She didn't do anything bad to deserve this fate. But that is what happened. She got sucked into Ravan's tale of karmic retribution. Shit happens. But don't worry.  I am sure the first law kicked in and she's in a very happy place right now sipping mocktails and enjoying the good life.

Sunday, 19 February, 2012

An arranged marriage is arranged madness

I can't believe my post is motivated by a no-brainer romcom, but it is. "Ek me aur ek tu" released last week and I was listening to Imran Khan's promotional interview on the radio and he was saying the story starts off with them getting married after an alcohol fueled night in Vegas and over time they get to know each other better. I realized that's what arranged marriages are. They are no better than an alcohol fueled bad decision to get married in Vegas. Its a gamble and the risk is the same. Now isn't that a sobering thought.

Lets see, two strangers meet, their cognitive powers hampered by powerful substances (alcohol in one case, maa ka pyaar in the other) and each person lies to a certain extent about his/her own qualities and the intensity with which he/she likes the other persons'. In both cases the decision is based on too little knowledge and too little reliance on the most important thing - the way it feels to be in love. So both situations are pretty much the same. Getting arrange-married to someone is the same as getting drunk and mistake-marrying in Vegas! How are you supposed to love someone and his/her parents, have children with them, clean after them, see them brush teeth, puke, have diarrhea, find their sleepy head look cute and do all this till the end of time if you are not in love with that person?!. You can grow to love a person over time, like you would with a friend or a pet or a house, but to truly be partners, man & wife, the halves, you need to be "in love" to start with. And it is the most beautiful feeling the world. Its not only when you can't live without them, its when you can but you don't want to. Love is not out of a compulsion you have no control over, its a choice. You are completely secure knowing that you are completely vulnerable,that's love that stays forever and that's the kind you need.

For the record, I didn't watch Ek me aur ek tu, but I have to admit I kinda wanted to.

Thursday, 9 February, 2012

Forget me not

I seem to be forgetting everything. I don't mean mundane things like where I put my keys or did i switch off the gas stove. Those I remember sadly. But things like the books I read long back. Ive forgotten the plot, sometimes even the names of the main characters. Ive even picked up a book, read a couple of chapters and then realized its not deja vu, I have read it before. (happened with the book 'The good earth' by pearl S. Buck). I was reading other peoples' blogs and came across several posts where readers admitted to having forgotten much of what they had read. Some were saying blogging is their way of archiving everything about the book so that they can look it up later. It gave me great comfort to see I wasn't alone and I wasn't particularly deficient in mental faculties.

This makes me go off on a tangent. Can I honestly, to the best of my knowledge say I know almost all there is to know about xyz? I realized I couldn't say this about anything. I couldn't say this about books (the authors Ive read), music (the bands I followed) , movies & TV ( the stuff I watched, in some cases repeated viewing of the reruns) and not even about what I studied in school or College. Even with the best of my efforts I cant convince myself that this is so because my interests and inputs are so varied and cover such a vast range that i cannot remember all, its like trying to squeeze 500 GB into a 250 GB hard disk. I know that's not true. Its just that in the period when this particular thing was occupying alot of my mind space I probably did know alot about it, but with time it has faded, and now I seem to remember only the broad outlines along a couple of interesting facts. So maybe I did know all about it, I just forgot.

Maybe its a multi-tasking problem, I am always so busy doing something else at the same time, that none of my activities get full attention, and thus none of them get registered properly. They just glide over the surface without penetrating.

Or maybe its a confidence problem or a humility problem. I cant make myself say I'm good, apparently not even to myself.

Whatever it is, I feel like my interests are defined by a Venn diagram, with multiple circles of different colors, which are fading over time, but the boundaries hold, the diagram is there. So even though i might not remember what Rebecca said to Maxim when he took her to Manderley for the first time, I do remember feeling like Rebecca, entering Manderley with her and feeling the magic. And maybe that's enough.

Tuesday, 7 February, 2012

The relationship equation

A relationship works when,

 x - y >= 0

x = The happiness, support , motivation & inspiration given by the relationship
y =  The tears, worry, self-loathing & doubting and helplessness caused by the relationship
As it can be seen from the equation, when the relationship gives you more than it takes away, i.e. the net is more than zero, its worth it. Otherwise all you get is a negative number which will always subtract something from you and will drain you over time. A special mention for"drama" based relations. Now some people like it hot! What i mean is, the peaceful routine existence gets too boring to keep their interest alive. A fight, a scare an ultimatum fires up the engine. But please note that the equation holds for them too. Because mostly the drama has only short term consequences and not sustained sadness. The small episodes of friction are like the sparks given by a spark plug. They ignite the passion.
Now what if the net is zero, nothing lost but nothing gained. Well then its a false positive. Because this zero doesn't account for the opportunity cost of having lost out on the potential of meeting someone who can tilt the balance of the equation. To slightly modify an analogy from the movie life in a metro - if someone's car is already parked in your garage, you cant let out your garage to someone new.
Disclaimer: I don't know anything about what makes a relationship work or not work. Its different for each couple. I reproduce here some wise words from "sex and the city" - "No one can possibly know what actually goes on between two people except for those two people".

This post is dedicated to my dear friend R. You deserve the world.

Wednesday, 25 January, 2012

Driving You Mad

I was at the doctor's yesterday and he said something which made me think  . He said "In India, people don't value their life, you've been given one life and that's it". Its consistent with what I see when I'm driving. Most Pedestrians don't pay any attention to the vehicles around them. Cyclists and motorists don't check before changing lanes. If they collide with a car, the car driver won't get hurt, probably nothing more than a scratch on the car, but the pedestrian or cyclist might be fatally injured. For many of the pedestrians, one accident, one injury is sometimes all it takes to push them over the brink into debilitating poverty. If they are hurt or unwell, they can't go to work, they might lose their salary for a few days or even their job. This leaves them with lesser money to buy medicines or get treatment, and this delays their recovery which leads to more absenteeism. So its a vicious cycle, often very difficult to break out of.

There is a lack of awareness among pedestrians, but that can't be the only reason. If you see your neighbour get hit by a car and die, pretty soon you will figure out the cause and effect. You should be able to realize that you need to be more careful on the roads. Why haven't we evolved into more careful beings, I don't know.

Driving is like a car racing video game, you never know which creature might jump out from behind the bushes right in front of your car, and it is your responsibility to avoid hitting the target. Maybe this next generation, which plays video games all the time, will be better at it than we are. I honk alot, to caution people, because they seem to be solving some complicated maths problem in their head while walking in the middle of the road. Or they are busy looking in the extreme left direction while taking a turn towards right. But if the have headphones on, or music blasting from their car, even my honking can't save them. So I have to take it upon myself to be alert while driving, expect Brownian motion from the moving objects, expect people, cows, dogs to suddenly come to life when they see a car approaching and try to cross the road at the exact same instant and expect everyone on the road to feel that he / she is the blessed wise one for whom traffic rules and universal laws of physics don't hold.

Maybe the evolution is happening, the drivers are slowly learning to follow rules, and the pedestrians are learning to look before they leap. And maybe in my lifetime the evolution will be complete and driving would be a breeze.

Sunday, 22 January, 2012

Books I read in 2011 - Part Two

This post is about just one book. "The big short" by Michael Lewis. Its a brilliantly written book explaining something very complex, very simply and with a story. The author looks at the Subprime crisis of 2008-2009 and the subsequent financial crisis in US economy, from the point of view of those few people who managed to understand that there is something unnatural and wrong about subprime loans and its all going to blow up spectacularly. They bet against the system and stood their ground in face of severe disbelief from all quarters. They were proved right and the system collapsed.

I was in college when the news broke and what with one thing and another, I didn't pay enough attention to what actually caused the crisis in the first place. I knew the effect but not the cause. And this one book made it all clear for me. If you want to understand how the problem assumed such vast proportions and spread throughout the world, this is the one book you should read.

I am putting up a flowchart of the events that I made after reading the book. Its the original, in the crappy handwriting for authenticity, except for one spelling correction.

Friday, 20 January, 2012

Why you like a particular Book / Movie / TV serial or soap

Unlike a painting, a book / movie / TV serial or soap, tells a story. A painting is just one scene of a story, you imagine the rest. There are two reasons why you like a book / movie / TV serial or soap :

1) You relate with one of the characters, mostly the protagonist or the situation :
You connect with the character. You want to see where the story will take him. You find justification for your actions in his actions. You feel the comfort of validation of your decisions. Or you are in a similar or parallel situation and you want some answers. Here you are very sensitive to the plot, the development of characters, the why and how of the story.

2) You find one of the characters attractive :
You can't resist the charm. You want to find out more about him / her. You want to know whether you stand a chance. Needless to say you wont bother too much about the story line as long as he/she is not killed unnecessarily.

Then there is the lethal combination of the two, you relate with a character who in the story is interested in the character you find attractive!

Disclaimer: There are a million reasons for liking or not liking a book /movie /TV serial or soap. Some of them are relatively rational  and some are unique to you. That's why your experience of the book / movie / TV serial or soap will be very different from mine even though we both read the same book, watched the same movie / TV serial or soap.

Thursday, 19 January, 2012

Racists by Kunal Basu

I cheated. I am supposed to be 'now reading' Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. But I found it a little cumbersome and I wanted to read something which was effortless. When I saw the plot summary for this book, I knew I had to read it to find out how will he end it?

 Racists by Kunal Basu is the fictitious tale of an experiment being  conducted in the 1850s to determine once and for all the answer to the controversial race question. Is it nature or conditioning from environment, that delegates one race to slavery and elevates another to dominance. The experiment- two children ,a black boy and a white girl (yes I thought he was going to introduce the gender question also but he doesn't) are going to be kept on a deserted  island to grow up wild and free, free to follow their free will without any contact with the civilized world. Accompanying them would be a mute nurse,  who must not influence the children in any way. Her job is to just feed them and keep them alive. Each of the two scientists behind this experiment, believes in his own theory and knows which one will emerge superior. Both are just waiting for their 'samples' to prove them correct. Now the plot introduction was brilliant, and the book was too , in the beginning. Sadly, the rest of the book didn't live up to expectations. The main story line started diverging halfway- a professor's struggle to maintain financial backing for this experiment, the professor's assistant's love for the mute nurse, the professors deteriorating relationship with his wife. The biggest let down was the ending. I was very curious to know how will the author end it in an impartial yet credible way. Or will he take a side? But there was no conclusion to the experiment.

 The writing style is fine, nothing extraordinary. Pity, such an interesting concept count lead to more. I am not sure if I would like to pick up something more by the author. Maybe if I know before hand that it wont disappoint me, I might.

Friday, 13 January, 2012

How are women successful in Indian Politics

I have often wondered that in a country like India where women are still considered 2nd class citizens, crime against women is rampant and mostly goes unpunished, a girl child is a worry for her parents from the moment she is born, where it feels like society is deliberately trying to ensure that women don't break the shackles that they have been put into, how come the actual seat of power in the Indian government is a woman, the chief minister of the largest and electorally most significant state is a woman and the one holding the government to ransom from Bengal is a woman.

Our society will make it extremely hard for a woman have a modest career but will hand over the reins of the country to a woman. I have often wondered about this dichotomy. It happens in other subcontinent countries too. But since the Indian subcontinent countries are like cousins who grew up in the same household, this is hardly surprising. I read this great article by Sagarika Ghose in HT about women in political power in India. It was entertaining and thought provoking. She says " India’s women politicians cultivate a designer madness, a well thought out insanity, to force their presence and personality in the brutally male-dominated world of Indian politics". That's one way to look at it.

I think the entry of a woman in politics might be due to circumstances - logical consequence to the death a closely related male leader. The core group around the leader may have installed the woman as a puppet to pander to public sentiment and like Pinocchio, she came to life and started acting on own terms. Or it might be the fruit of a hard fought struggle for rights and power. But once they are in, I think the key is to downplay their gender as much as possible. They wear unassuming clothes, hardly if ever raise there voices for womens' issues and usually don't have a visibly significant husband/partner. If the people forget you are infact a woman, they will forget their bias and their opposition to women having power to live equally and freely. For the moment, I think this is how women succeed in Indian politics, but I hope one day it will be for their ability to lead and not because of or inspite of their gender.

Thursday, 12 January, 2012

Thought for the day January 12, 2012 : Challenges

Challenges are like grinding wheels and you are the me(n)tal block. When you first see them you feel a little reluctant, you have to steel yourself for putting yourself to it. It hurts a little when the wheel hits you and scrapes off the dull topmost layer of comfort and complacency. But after its over,  there is a brand new shiny you.

Monday, 9 January, 2012

Books I read in 2011 -Part One

Ever since I've started earning, I've become very impulsive and free in my book buying. Earlier when my parents were paying for it, I would buy a book only when I had already read it and liked it and wanted it for my collection, or it was highly recommended by sources I trusted or was another book by an author I liked. I didn't stray from my comfort zone. But now I buy all, though I am not reading all. One downside to this book buying spree is that for the first time in my life I'm reading multiple books together. My concurrent reading list has seven books on it, all in varying stages of being read. I still haven't decided if its a good thing. This is the reason last year I read twenty full books but five half books. 

1. Rabbit, run - by John Updike. 
When Updike died in 2009 it was in the news and a columnist/blogger for HT (Hindustan times) wrote a very flattering article which made me want to read some of his work. I looked him up online and decided to start with the first of the rabbit series. Its the story of a High school basketball star who's stuck in a marriage with an alcoholic wife. And as the tittle suggests, he runs. Its overall a sad tale, of how he never lives to fulfill the promise of his teenage years, how he finds out his god like coach is after all human. I admired the writing. There were quite a few phrases in the narrative which put little daily exercises of mundane existence into beautiful language, in a way I had not seen before. All in all, I don't regret reading it but wouldn't have regretted not reading it.

2. Rabbit Redux - by John Updike
Well after the first one I kind of wanted to finish the series just to earn that badge. Its set in the experimental sixties with many drug induced haze scenes. Rabbit is bringing up his son on his own and takes in a young teenage girl only slightly older than his son. This one was more pessimistic about life and I liked it lesser than the first one. This one put a stop to my relationship with Updike. 

3.Marley and me - by John Grogan 
It was a feel good book, that laid bare the truth about all the energy and love and time and resources that go into having a dog. Its like having a baby, nothing less. It made me realize that I would only get a dog when I am old enough to die before it does because otherwise I wouldn't survive the pain of its death. I am sure dog owners / lovers would appreciate and love this book alot more.

4. The English patient - by Michael Ondaatje
I loved the sheer poetry of the prose. If the writing is so beautiful, I can forgive anything-plot, characters, ending, anything. It was music. Its the story of a nurse who stays behind to help a wounded man recover after the second world war. It is also has the story of the man and his love. Sample this:

"Meanwhile, with the help of an anecdote, I fell in love. Words, Caravaggio, they have a power"

Highly recommended for the way its written. I'll get to other books by the author as and when I get time.

5. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Another book picked up from the Nytimes bestsellers list. I immediately liked the title. The opposite of perfectionists and its not actually a word. Its the story of a group of people connected with a newspaper which is shutting shop due to dwindling circulation - an obsessive reader, the editor, the publisher. The characters and the concept sounded interesting but the book didn't develop that way. The story of the old woman who obsessively reads every inch of the paper and has reached only 1994, is endearing. Not an essential read though.

Watch this space for Part Two.

Thursday, 5 January, 2012

Thought for the day January 5, 2012 : Life

Life is not a contest, its a journey and you are moving towards equillibrium.

Sunday, 1 January, 2012

Writer's block without even starting

Its been a while since I last posted. I've always believed that writing is an art- like painting or composing a song. It requires an original mind with an original idea. I guess I think a whole novel is going to fall into the empty living room of my brain and I am going to type it all out in one go, as if the words are themselves jumping from my mind on the pages into that "one" book so great, so intense, that even I start believing what a great writer I am. But yesterday I realized it doesn't work like that. An idea does take birth, but you have to work at it, develop it, think about how it fits in, how it tangents off, how to end it, where is it going and more importantly where its taking you. I guess what helped was a movie that was coming on TV, 'Finding forester'. I loved the parts I watched and would want to watch the whole thing uninterrupted. At one point, the protagonist's mentor/friend tells him to write. The protagonist pauses to think, so his friend tells him to first write, not to think, just write down whatever is flowing and then to sit down with the first draft you have so written and think about it and read it with your mind, edit it, better it. A couple of days back, a half formed idea for a short story popped in my mind. And this time I've decided to work with it, give it time and nourishment to grow, be patient with it. And who knows, it might actually turn out to be a happy ending. 
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