October 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
Once upon a time newspapers were used to swat flies, but now the art of swatting flies with newspapers is dying, restricted to a few, especially since many seem to read papers online. The irony of course is that, papers of old actually had news in them, whereas papers today are either advertisement catalogues or are made of toilet paper or both.
Somewhere along the way these newspaper companies figured that as people who are stupid enough to pay to find out stuff from a piece of paper hours after something has actually happened must be really stupid, it is not worth providing them with stuff which they anyway do not use but instead they should be bombarded with advertisements where everyone claims to be selling the cheapest mobile phone or the sexiest underwear.
Newspapers also want to be old people friendly because surely with all that honking and noise, they have enough to put up with, so no more headlines which would make you pop- they replaced it with more advertisements. There is an ad everywhere, so much so that find the news might turn into a game at old age homes(hmm…more specifically the parliament).
There is this newspaper which apparently is supposed to make you clever, smart and ready for your pre-marriage interview with your future Father-in-law, but I hear it is now riddled with grammatical mistakes much like Chennai roads were riddled with cows a few years back. It has these wonderful tabloids as well, made of tissue paper and nothing less trying to appeal to the next gen. with paid write ups and not paid but with love articles, sometimes definite but mostly indefinite.
Then there are these other papers, which one sees in waiting rooms and in some people’s houses(I will not name you, don’t worry). For-owing-the-damned-brains-sake, what the hell do they think? Their philosophy seems to be what can’t be made stupider cannot be made stupidest. Freaking-humanity’s-sake can you people actually writing something sensible already?
You see papers were supposed to be proactive. They took on governments, companies and government companies and politicians and people with gold teeth because they believed in themselves and something else which they thought was worth it. Now, they seem to have retired and taken a back seat to these weirdo channels which dear-oh-dear live telecast bomb attacks!
So where the hell does one get news from? The internet. The irony is that it still is the newspaper and TV people who mostly share this news. They tweet because they all own smartphones and they pretend to be clever. What wrong can you go in hundred and forty characters anyway? In between apparently asking questions and apparently being all radical by having pony tails, they try to say a couple of smart things a day but end up saying stupider things. What follows is…
P.S:- Why would any paper carry an advertisement as cover? Or should we just pay a minute’s silence as the paper might be the last ever? *sips filter coffee*
Early mornings and dreams
October 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
The thing about mornings is that you either hate them or love them- unless you sleep through them, which considering how much of humanity is up and screaming and honking away, seems the best way to deal with early mornings.
I love early mornings to begin with peace and quiet and internet. Don’t get me wrong- I would love not to have mornings, but as things stand I love my mornings to be quiet. A good morning is one when where no one attempts to talk to me. Not because people always have annoying things to say or yell about, but because I love to savour dreams.
You see the dreams are more important than coffee. You can savour the latter at any point of the day, provided you like coffee, but dreams- well the morning ones are special. Day dreams are cool- but they aren’t as well planned, laid and thought out as a dream which has run all night long.
Of course, for this to happen, one needs to remember the dream first. A sizable task, considering that dreams don’t make enough sense and the natural tendency is to forget them. But what’s important is to have at least a small known bit to which one can add bits of conscious, thoughtful paragraph or a stanza to, as you go.
It is like completing a story. It just got to be finished. You might not like it all that much, but it is still that wonderful feeling when the last word is typed out in your computer at One-AM in the morning. Because, a story is a story and has to be completed. The devil may not dip you in hot oil and fry you like potatoes, but somebody is not going to feel good about it- you.
So now I have this dream which has to be completed, and the moments after I see the light fall through the window making weird patterns on the floor is dedicated to this. I get out of a bed which surely is at least a 150 years old, rosewood no less with intricate carvings and all that and switch of the alarm. I stumble into the bathroom and pick up that little thing whose purpose has been misunderstood for long- the toothbrush.
The toothbrush is the most magical of devices. It is like a pen in some ways, it helps this dream which has got to be completed. As the standard tasks section of the brain carries out the mundane task of getting your mouth in a presentable state, hopefully, the toothbrush swirls and turns writing out the last bits of this dream.
As the brush goes between gaps, the nitty-gritty of the latest fantasy get fitted out. It is toning down those stark images to make a wonderful balanced sense- like turning the Veyron into a Ferrari or Hemingway’s landscape into that creepy house at the street corner into which everyone throws garbage- in essence it is adding that bit of alive day-to-day to get that right sort of flavor.
Dreams are apparently a mish-mash of what we want, really want. And that’s the coolest thing about them- they show how cool you actually are, how awesome the way you think is- they are a customized story which you have built with your own damned sense!
The toothbrush completes these dreams, but to start out, you need to be inspired- I do not mean watching videos of your favorite actor before going to bed, but you know, build out these awesome thoughts, think awesome stuff- of the impossible, of nothing mundane- at least turning everyday things in the world sentient and preferable not as something out of someone else’s science fiction.
All those guys with big beards and spectacles(not Dumbledore) , they keep telling you to be inspired and do yoga and whatever, but what you do need to do is, stay inspired with new ideas. You know, you could have the most boring life, like working in the inspections department but never the less learn from the security guards- they could whine and sit in one place all day, but they joke about, learn about others lives and build out these awesome stories for themselves(or so I think).
Always remember to go to bed feeling all positive, read Calvin and Hobbes if nothing because you do not want to be writing your own death over and over again. It is fun for a couple of times but after a while, you just get bored, start killing your dreams and the horror- you might start snoring!
THE CAT’S TABLE BY MICHAEL ONDAATJE(book review)
July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
Image from here.
The Cat’s Table is the second book by Michael Ondaatje that I have read. Ondaatje is one of those authors whose writing leaves you with that funny little good feeling. His words caress the landscapes of familiarity with a touch so distant, that your senses feel tickled, searching half in joy, half in melancholy for a reconciliation with the fictional world.
If Anil’s journey(In Anil’s Ghost) to find evidence against the government during the civil unrest was about an adult traveling through a home that never was, Michael’s journey on the Oronsay is about a small world drawn by a boy around himself, on a ship while crossing the seas. A world, which even though years pass, he cannot forget.
The journey has a childish innocence to it, and as a contrast, the parts where the author talks about what happened after the voyage leave you spell-bound as he flexes the words to bend backwards in presenting the complex relationships and affections between the people he met on that fateful boat.
The author narrates without imposing any views about the characters, they are people with their funny little ways and means. Indeed, that is what makes the description of the journey what it is- the unbiased presentation of a territory inhabited by an eleven year old- Curious, inquisitive about the adults on board and their travails while causing a riot every now and then.
What makes the book special, is how the author brings together, the story of a childhood and juxtaposes it against the story of an adult. His affection for Ramadhin, the career of Cassius- his two close friends on board, the various people of the Cat’s table and his cousin, Emily and her life after the ride across the seas, are told with a margin of emotions. Not everything is pleasant throughout the journey, we see the child trying to cope with death, being used to steal and almost being killed in a storm.
The Cat’s table is a wonderful read, one which can be savored. There is a satisfaction in reading it, inspired by the author’s own journey from Colombo to London, one gets to see a world which seems dear to the writer. It is as if he is telling you his favorite story, as if you are special enough to hear it.
THE NEW YOUR TRILOGY by PAUL AUSTER(book review)
July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Stories only happen to those who are able to tell them.”
Some books transcend beyond the obvious, play with your little grey cells, fascinate and leave you in a world unlike anything you know. Such books become a journey at the end of which one is left to ponder upon the ironies and foibles of life .
Metaphysical Detective stories are where instead of arriving at a solution for the case, the protagonist loses himself in the mysteries, questions his existence and the world around him and emerges as a completely transformed person. The stories tend to suck one in, the metamorphosis slowly but surely spreading to the reader as they progress.
The New York trilogy is a master piece. It leaves you enthralled not just by its simplicity but a profound beauty in both style and essence. The protagonists of the three stories are tormented due to their own stubbornness and become part of mysteries reluctantly. Daniel Quinn chases shadow and camps outside a window, waiting. Blue tails White with dedication and determination which seems to lead nowhere. Fanshawe’s friend is left with a tormenting legacy which he admires.
City Of Glass:-
“It was a wrong number that started it.”
A detective writer receives calls asking for a certain “detective Paul Auster”. While at first he tries to ignore the calls, he is over come by curiosity and decides to play along. He assumes the personality of the detective and visits his client Peter Stillman who narrates a tale of his dark childhood. Quinn dons the role of a private eye and is soon consumed by his mission- keeping track of Peter Stillman the elder to ensure he does not attempt to kill his son.
The author brings to life the streets of New York in this book. As Quinn follows his suspect, his form and person give in to a routine unlike any other. The case starts to define his life and as it wears on leads to disintegration. The already sketchy existence of Quinn, who writes novels under a pseudonym soon reaches the margins of the society. In his attempt to define his new personality, he sheds everything that was him and finds the place he occupied before filled by other things and people. It leaves you with a strange kind of silence, a place where one questions one’s sanity.
Blue accepts to watch Black for White. He is given an apartment opposite White’s, money to meet expenses and a comfortable remuneration. Blue watches Black day and night, trails him, follows him compulsively. He changes his routine to match that of Black. He sends in his reports duly,distances himself from his lover and people he knew and dedicates himself to the job at hand.
Yet as time passes, doubts creep in and not only is he driven to find out more about Black, he begins to doubt White’s motive and identity. Blue decides to get to the bottom of the case only to find the reality nothing like what he imagined. Was it worth his time and the love he gave up? He tries to reconcile his life to find a fleeing meaning in it.
The Locked Room
When Fanshawe’s friend steps into Fanshawe’s life, he does it completely- he marries his wife, adopts his son and publishes his work. That’s what his friend wanted, he is assured. The books become a success and he leads a comfortable life albeit still clueless to Fanshawe’s sudden disappearance, till one day he receives a letter from Fanshawe, thanking him for his efforts.
This leads the friend to go in search for him. He also decides to write about Fanshawe and is slowly and surely driven insane. The search turns out to be futile till one day he ends up at a locked room. In his quest to find his friend and write about him, the friend loses everything he has and finds himself in a hard place.
“It seems to me that I will always be happy in the place where I am not.”
The stories and the characters are interwoven. The narrative is about men who lose their identity to the task at hand. At first merely inquisitive, the mysteries capture their identities, twisting and turning, redefining the position and personalities.
The protagonists are manipulated by the people and their surroundings, pulled into unknown territory. Jobs that look quite comfortable and outright lead to positions unlike any other. The madness that possesses their subjects spreads out bit by bit to catches their own shadows; Albeit sensing it at some level, they give in.
Writing is something which is very much part of the books. There is always someone who is writing in the three stories. While there is little about what they write, the stories are about the impact the writing has on the world, its critics and the authors. While writing is healing is a common enough notion, the book deals with the influence it has on a person beyond the healing effect. One finds what goes into the book, the emotions attached to the act itself, the mind behind it and the creative.
Auster’s magic lies in translating the deeper need for definitions and belonging in society into real characters. One can see those magical moments of change touching them and transforming their lives. One can hear a silence as the beauty(in a sad sort of way) overtakes their earlier self. As Quinn walks through the streets of New York or waits in the streets for a face to appear at the window, as Blue trails Black in deep concentration and expectation, as Fanshawe’s friend searches for him, thinking about him always, reading his works, living with his wife, they evolve step by step. They come close to becoming real in the reader’s head even as their existence in fiction becomes wraith-like at times. One understands their madness and can feel it lingering in deep recess waiting to manifest.
The trilogy is a must read if you like detective fiction. Auster’s work has the thrill and suspense a detective fiction possesses. It is also about writers ad their pointed need to merge the identities of fiction and reality to paint a world of their own. While the concrete mysteries are sure, the abstracts leave much to solve. One can feel their madness- much like staring at the computer screen for too long, lurking somewhere inside.
NEWSROOM MAFIA by OSWALD PERERIA (book review)
January 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
Image from here.
There is a genre of Indian movies with villains clad in dhotis, the hero in non-designer pants-shirt, kick ass music, dangerous looking gundas and cops- fun, fast and exciting. Unfortunately, they don’t make many of these today- take Don 2 for example, the antagonist is surely ‘bad’ and Hollywood, the locations nothing even remotely close to home(given they probably flew over the Indian Ocean from Asia to Europe) and the only ‘Indian’ element seems to be language.
The Newsroom Mafia, on the other hand has familiar aromas-A Dharavi Tamil villain, a super cop, journalists and politicians. The clique is so cliched that one wonders if it would excite and do what endless movies have done. Oswald Pereira manages to do it. The book has that adrenaline rush which ensures one cannot keep the book down.
The book begins with an inside scoop gone wrong. The Super Cop and his forces fail to capture the Godfather Narayan Swamy, who manages to sneak away from under their nose to Mayiladudurai. The journalist Oscar narrates the story of the acclaimed Don, his methods and the nexus between the Black, the Gray, the White. With copious amounts of money and bloodshed, all is fair in business especially in a world without much ethics to go by-expect maybe a liberal amount of sacred ash smeared on a forehead.
With the help of ‘consultants’ the Don tries to turn a new leaf, hoping to be seen as a philanthropist and a businessman. But with the Super cop on tow, the firm illicit grounds on which the Godfather’s empire is found is threatened.
Dramatic with masala and booze, the book runs well, drawing inspirations from the lives of Varadhabhai, Haji Mastan and others. Told from a journalists perspective, the author narrates the atrocities and horrors of the underworld and the moves by the Supercop with the same vigour and zest.
One can also see how it is tough for a journalist to remain ‘clean’. With little income, their need for big stories is exploited by people who plant and fabricate stories for their better purposes. The Don, with his sly, manages to recruit a team of intelligent, smart and ambitious journalists to not only help him with an image makeover but also for doing his dirty linen.
A game of chess with an unfair amount of knights and bishops on one side and an uncanny player who tries to bulldoze with rooks, a queen moves with deft feet to make the difference. Well written and researched, the Newsroom Mafia is a thrilling read.
TWO FATES: THE STORY OF MY DIVORCE by JUDY BALAN
December 7, 2011 § 4 Comments
Fun, funny and enjoyable!
In India, people just don’t marry each other rather marriage is a great coming together of two humongous galaxies. The couple is nothing more than two insignificant stars somewhere in this cosmic event. So what happens when a couple decide to get divorced by mutual consent and remain simply as best friends? Hilarity ensues.
The couple of course is pressed all the while to have a baby. What’s more the Punjabi and Tamilian families go overboard in blending in with each other. Deepika’s money conscious, stingy and traditional Tamil family lets its hair down and does the cha-cha along with a few healthy shots of whiskey. The zealous Punjabi family of Rishab camps in Chennai to be partners in crime in the mission of coercing the couple to have a baby. The families conclude the best way make ’em make babies is to send them on a second honeymoon to the UK.
The book isn’t a spoof of Chetan Bhagat’s novel, Two States. The author borrows the background, she does what she does best- write a ridiculously sensible and fun book. With a flourish for the language and a simple style the book races ahead in good humour.
The remarkable difference between Two States and Two Fates is the lack of spite. While the author of the former insisted he meant no harm, there were times when one did feel a certain venom(that probably is his nature?) but Judy has none of that- you can see it is in good humour. One might say though that the former edges ahead in terms of being a story-teller.
One cannot but like Deepika and Rishab. They seem so harassed by their families that one hopes they succeed in their divorce. But most of their efforts seem to backfire leading to desperation. The ending has a suitable twist which does leave you with that nice content smile.
A wonderful quick read. Priced at Rs.105(on flipkart), there is no reason you shouldn’t read it. Funny and enjoyable, the book has enough masala thrown in as well. I had high expectations in terms of the content(especially since I know the author) and wasn’t disappointed. The book is marketed as a parody of Two States, which is quite unfair to the book. There is a fine thread which connects the two but one needn’t read Two States to enjoy this- the book stands out on its own.
Shutting it tight
October 5, 2011 § 3 Comments
There is the point of indifference. I seem to keep reaching it only to feel the pinch again. There are times when tomorrow is already here. That feeling that it is inevitable that I have to go through my day. I crib a lot on twitter, but I am not sure if it is heart-felt any more. Probably a knee jerk reaction to everything that is happening, a vent.
I still haven’t got the hang of this friendship thing. At one moment a person is nice and smiling at you. The next moment they act like a stranger. It is confusing. And these aren’t random people you get to know on the web, these are ‘real people’. Going through random quotes on friendship isn’t going to help. There is no point really, it seems tiring to talk to people. I used to talk a lot. Now days, I have stopped talking to people all that much. A random conversation with a stranger on a train is fine but talking to ‘acquaintance’ isn’t worth it anymore.
I am afraid to talk about ‘me’. Talking about what I do is fine but I am not too sure if I can talk about myself to anyone. You think someone has become a friend and has risen beyond seeing you as weak when you talk about problems but it isn’t so. Even with people who you have known for most of your life. This probably is growing up- one needs to shut oneself in a tight shell.
It is remarkable how one has to learn not to be offended, as well. My standards for the world have almost reached 0 but not quite. Still, day by day my expectations keep falling(much like the stock markets now). Twitter helps me retain my sanity, still there are times I wonder what is the purpose of the whole site.
People may come, people may go but I go on forever.
I am not a book review bot
September 18, 2011 § 4 Comments
Howdy world! I have not turned into a book review writing bot. Blame it all on twitter! I never have the motivation to write a post any more. The blog was once upon a time where after much deliberation, I would write a clearly worded rant. But now of course, the little blue bird and 140 characters rule my life(addiction, you see).
There are a number of factors, which have led to this post. The cherry on top of the black-forest of course is that I met Brainstuck and The Alchemist. Over come with nostalgia and admiration(it was a Harry meets Dumbledore again moment), the little (kid) dinosaur decided that it was time to make an appearance again(much like a renegade school boy, I used to be).
Of course, what exactly I am supposed to write fails me. If only there was a Mississippi(yay! I got the spelling correct for the first time ever!) I would be a Huck Finn, rescuing a Tom from the clutches of authority and helping him to escape North. As it stands, I am lost in a world of monkeys on typewriter, forever writing the script of you-know-who knows what.
Life, has turned, back flipped, somersaulted and even spun around in a Romanov influenced roulette before being dipped in the spirits of confused responsibility. One thing that hasn’t changed though is that I am still made of the same skin and blood and brains, unscathed by numbers, laws, boredom, accidents and gravity. The world as a maitre patisserie would say is like the sponge layer.
One of the reasons of abandoning ‘blog posts’ probably was that it was the vogue. But the nouveau riche of twitter have with some panache revived the Prime with All Spark-esque memes. And when a silly girl’s post became an overnight sensation much like a boy who think he can sing, it was time to contemplate a return to the not so dark art of writing blog posts.
Blogposts have gained social acceptance faster than Galileo did but twitter has gained social prominence faster than your great granddad who got a OBE did. And prominence is much more tempting than acceptance especially since it is the only way to sate your ego after seeing a 100 million likes on that stupid status update. Nevertheless, a blog is a blog is a blog. A space where your everyday trash can become priceless junk in the future.
Thus I return to being a blogger from a reviewing bot. If I fail to write a post a week feel free to fast and start a campaign on twitter. I shall without fail consider mentioning your efforts.
Until then, so long and lots of Plationic love, yours truly, V.
Matchbox of hope
September 12, 2011 § 2 Comments
The boy had a box of matchsticks in his hand. In front of him was a candle- A plain old cream-white candle. The only light in the room came from the LED street lights outside the window. The murmur of the rain and the occasional vehicle were the only sounds that made their way in. His eyes sparkled bright as he lit each matchstick and watched it die even as he tried to light the candle.
He would have been about 10 years old. His brows were in keen concentration and he smiled rarely. There was a bottle of water next to him, which seemed to never run out. There was perspiration on his forehead. His hair was unkempt and fell on his forehead. He had brown eyes and his nose was rather flat. He sat there legs crossed and kept striking the matches. His hands were slightly large for his age and the fingers showed signs of effort.
The artist stared at the boy and in his vision, painted. Hopeless though it seemed, he couldn’t help noticing that all that the boy wanted to do was light the candle. He never seemed to run out of matchsticks. He kept trying, again and again. He probably would grow old and the water would turn into whiskey. The calm face might lose its steadiness and become wrinkle ridden. His eyes may lose their charm to the light and he may start looking up occasionally at the window. He might go on till the day in desperation, he struck a match for one last time, tried to light the candle, watched it burn out and breath in the smoke for one last time.
But the boy had no clue what was outside. All he knew was that he had to light the candle. He did not know why. But he would have to keep trying, till he succeeded.
Matchbox of hope.
MEMORIES OF A ROLLING STONE by VINA MAZUMDAR(book review)
August 29, 2011 § 3 Comments
There are some books which attract you. For some reason, one gets pulled towards them and then there is no turning back. One knows that it is going to affect one is strange ways. Memories Of A Rolling Stone, did precisely that. It has been over a week since I completed the book and I am still mesmerized, influenced and inspired by the book.
This is the first autobiography that I have completed. The book not only gave me an insight into the women’s movement in India but also segments of our history. One of the toughest things to do is to accept that one is wrong- the author talks about the misconception which existed prior to the study conducted for the UN report(during the International Women’s decade) and how even after conclusive facts, politicians and governments were still resistant and apprehensive in accepting the study.
The author talks with humility and confidence which gave me the shudders. In times when exaggeration is the staple and limelight is what many seek, she maintains a poise and narrates her story with calm and unadulterated passion. There are many who dismiss the women’s movement as that of the elite the author highlights the fact that indeed it was so and that rural and poor women, women who did the actual work in the fields where still riddled in the old narrow-minded society.
The book opened a new perspective for me. This is the first time, I have had the opportunity to listen someone who was part of the system. Vina Mazumdar talks about her journey from her home is Kolkatta, through independence, through Oxford, as a teacher and then as a part of the women’s movement. We learn from her life experiences and come to realize that a certain amount of tact and willpower is needed to tackle the problems in our society and country.
While our politicians and TV anchors harp away to glory, there are many who do the actual work. They are the ones who are responsible for our development, freedom and day-to-day existence. The author, inspires and at the end of the day, all I can do is thank her for the book. Well narrated and detailed, the book is like the author a Rolling Stone- the pages keep turning. It would be delightful to have a teacher like her!