Friday, December 13, 2013

Links between 'manliness' , aggression and increasing sexual violence against women

In deeply patriarchal and somewhat sexist societies, too often the popular rhetoric equates the idea of masculinity and man-hood to aggression and dominance. The pop-culture pumps up this rhetoric as well, refusing to accept 'softer' or let's say less-aggressive sensibilities in men and merrily indulges in consigning adjectives like 'weak' or 'un-manly' to them.

And to top it all, the same pop-media-culture goes overboard with their self-flagellation, on the increasing reported cases of violence, physical and sexual, against the fairer sex. All the disturbing, baying-for-blood of the accused, that regularly occur after each such event, in a perverse way, heightens the feeling of 'manliness'.

Now, one doesn't need to be a nobel-winner to figure out that the very idea of female-liberation or emancipation itself is ludicrous when we refuse to shed these ideas of 'manhood' and continue investing in the popular rhetoric.

Here is an insightful article that actually puts forward some really vital links between increasing violence against women and identity of Manliness :

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The question of identity

Identity : of a nation, of an individual....that elusive, inexplicable and highly superficial entity ! What is it after all ? Apart from being a part-fantasy, part wish-fulfillment tool, conceived by us from an amalgamation of selective facts and long-standing myths !!
And what is so powerful about the very notion of 'identity' that we believe in it without any qualms, any doubts ? Is there a more primeval, evolutionary basis for our belief in 'having an identity' ?
The more one delves deeper into these questions, the more convoluted it becomes....

Kritika Pandey's views:

Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s lecture on how the invisible fourth lion on the National Emblem, the unacknowledged fourth color on the ‘Tri-Color’ National Flag, the omitted agony of India from the original song by Tagore before it became the National Anthem, and the excluded secret pain of Iqbal from the National Song as we know it today, left me with unanswered questions ( Which is a very good thing. So much to look forward to )

Identity is a rather complicated thing, because we don’t shape our identities solely on our own. India could think of itself in a certain way, the world could think of India in another way, and yet, both of these views can be completely different from what the world thinks that India thinks of itself. But at the end of the day, what do debates around nomenclature choices of India, Bharat and Hindustan essentially change, and how much, when there is always someone out there who thinks of you the way he does, whether or not you prefer to be thought of in that way? Because you can change the way you look at yourself, but can you really change the way you want to be looked at?

This applies not just to India as against the world outside, but to the many different Indias against each other. To every individual against every other individual. Come to think of it, it’s no surprise that a nation battles with identities torn between India, Bharat and Hindustan every day. Because the nation is made up of people like you and me. And you and me relentlessly prove that Iqbal’s secret pain is not so secret, after all. It finds its way into every heart that beats.

Because ''Iqbaal'' koi marham apna nahin jahaaN mein / maloom kya kisi ko dard e nihaaN hamara?”

This is a question that cannot, and should not, exist all by itself. It commands communal deliberation. Which is why I chose to go back my long lost When-In-Doubt-Post-On-Facebook mode for once.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Innocent humour...simpler times !

Purane Gunah Naye Gunahgaar

A mini review and discussion on the presence of humour and understated satire in SMP's work -- in simpler times !

Purane Gunah Naye Gunahgaar by Surender Mohan Pathak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This mini-novel was written in 1963, yet doesn't feel much dated today. In fact it is quite a well paced whodunit-thriller interlaced with lovely humour that fits quite organically in the story. And the humour is not of the slapstick version, so common in whodunits, but has rather suave feel to it. The principal character, Sunil, is smart, vulnerable and a really charming character, who is always ready with a quip on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes. And although the murder actually happens well into the second half of the novel, you won't find a single uninteresting paragraph throughout primarily because the length of the novel itself is quite short and the pace is good.
But the real soul of the novel is the language that the characters speak : the classical Hindustani of 1960's era! What lovely words suffused with all the innocence and simplicity of a bygone era! You start suspecting that all the characters have just came back from a 'mushayra' or a 'kavi goshthi'. And add to that the innocence and charm of the 60's, which spills out of the demeanour of the characters here and engulfs you as well. How can you not fall in love with such people ?!

The only niggle that I had with the novel was that for such good buildup, the ending was a bit rushed and did not do justice. Also the speed at which some of the investigative actions were conducted in the novel ( especially for the 60's era ) require some suspension of disbelief. Apart from that a very enjoyable read, if not for anything else then at least for the nostalgia factor and as a remembrance for much simpler times!

View all my reviews

A mini discussion to follow-up :

विशेषकर जिस पक्ष ने मुझ पर गहरी छाप छोड़ी वो था नॉवेल का ह्यूमर जो काफी organically कहानी का हिस्सा बनता है, और ६० के दशक की simplicity ओढ़े हुए लगता है।

कहानी में कई  खिलंदड़पन से भरपूर वाक्ये होते हैं जैसे  सुनील और ब्लास्ट के चपरासी के बीच में नोकझोक , जहां चपरासी अपनी हाज़िरजवाबी से सुनील को लाजवाब कर देता है। पर गौर करने वाली बात है कि इन सभी जवाबों, सवालों और प्रसंगों में एक सरलता और मासूमियत है, जो कि अब नहीं दिखती, न दिख सकती है। ये कुछ-कुछ इब्न-ए-सफ़ी के विनोद-हमीद की चुहलबाज़ियों की भी याद दिलाते हैं, लेकिन कई मानों में जुदा भी हैं।

साथ ही कहीं कहीं तो इतने understated और matter-of-fact तरीके से व्यंग्य किया गया है, कि वो और भी ज़्यादा असरदार हो जाता है। अब यही उदाहरण देखिये ---
"ब्लास्ट के दफ्तर में धराधड़ काम हो रहा था। सारा स्टाफ बाहरी दुनिया से बेखबर मशीनों की तरह काम कर रहा था। एडिटर रिपोर्टरों से शिकायत कर रहा था कि वे अखबार के लिए सनसनीखेज खबरें नहीं लाते और रिपोर्टर झल्ला के सोच रहे थे कि क्या एडिटर को मशीन में झोंक देने की खबर सनसनीखेज हो सकती है ?"
हास्य के साथ ही इसमे निहित irony ज़रा देखिये कि जिन साहबों को दुनिया की खबरें सबतक पहुंचानी हैं, वो ही दुनिया से बेखबर हैं !
ऐसे ही कितने ही प्रसंग, बिना वार्निंग के इस कहानी में प्रकट हुए, जिनके वजह से पढ़ने में और आनंद आया।

मुझे ऐसा लगता है कि उत्तरोत्तर, जैसे जैसे सुनील का कैरक्टर बढ़ता गया, सारी कॉमेडी रमाकांत के हिस्से ही आ गयी, और ये subtle ह्यूमर वाला हिस्सा थोड़ा खो सा गया और साथ ही सुनील के खिलंदड़पन की जगह स्मार्ट-टौक ने ले ली। खैर समय भी तो ६० के दशक वाला नहीं रहा!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

'Behind the truck' shers : India's highway poetry

( Courtesy : Hasan Zaheer )

"मालिक की गाड़ी, ड्राइवर का पसीना
चलती है सड़क पर बन कर हसीना !!"

"मालिक की ज़िंदगी बिस्कुट और केक पर
ड्राइवर की ज़िंदगी एक्सिलेरेटर और ब्रेक पर!!"

"पत्ता हूँ ताश का जोकर न समझना,
आशिक हूँ तेरे प्यार का नौकर न समझना!!"

"या खुदा क्यों बनाया मोटर बनाने वाले को,
घर से बेघर किया मोटर चलाने वाले को!!"

"ड्राईवर की ज़िन्दगी में लाखों इलज़ाम होते हैं,
निगाहें साफ़ होती हैं फिर भी बदनाम होते हैं!!"

"चलती है गाड़ी उड़ती है धूल
जलते हैं दुश्मन खिलते हैं फूल!!"

"दिल के अरमाँ आँसुओं में बह गये
वो उतर कर चल दिये हम गियर बदलते रह गये !!"

"कभी साइड से आती हो, कभी पीछे से आती हो
मेरी जाँ हार्न दे देकर, मुझे तुम क्यों सताती हो!!"

"रूप की रानी चोरों का राजा,
मिलना है तो सोनिया विहार आ जा!!"

"कीचड़ में पैर रखोगी तो धोना पड़ेगा
गोरी ड्राइवर से शादी करोगी तो रोना पड़ेगा!!"

"लिखा परदेस क़िस्मत में, वतन की याद क्या करना
जहाँ बेदर्द हाकिम हों, वहां फ़रियादक्या करना!!"

"पानी गिरता है पहाड़ से, दीवार से नहीं
दोस्ती है हमसे, हमारे रोज़गार से नही!!"

"बुरी नज़र वालों की तीन दवाई,
जूता, चप्पल और पिटाई!!"

57 के फूल 74 की माला,
बुरी नज़र वाले तेरा मूंह काला।

Friday, September 13, 2013

A grand retreat….TEAM BUILDING 2013

My article in Namaste BG

It was a really wet morning to start with, the 12th of September, and it was to drizzle all day long, in enough measure to quench the wildest of fires. But it wasn’t potent enough to dampen the spirits of the WE, Developments & POT teams! The two day ‘Team Building event’, involving these three teams, that followed, was to prove too wild a monster to be tamed by a mere monsoon.

Welcoming Durban playing Tutari
It all started with the assembly of the teams at the BG house and their subsequent departure on a five-hour long journey to the JadhavGadh Fort and heritage hotel, near Pune, our destination.   And thanks to the enterprising team members, a slog that the bus-ride could easily have been, turned into a joy-ride, complete with multiple rounds of dumb charades and antaakshari that saw almost total participation with hardly a moment passing without a laugh or a quip.  The brisk ride proved to be just the right appetizer for the sumptuous meal that was to follow.

On our arrival at the fort, situated in the midst of an array of hillocks, greenery and perfect solitude, we were greeted in the most regal manner, with the long drawn calls of Tutari and Raj tilaks, into our comfortable rooms. And then began the non-stop session of games such as Human Appliance, Balloon man, blindfolded puzzle between six teams, with each consisting of members from the three departments. Yes, the names sound crazy but the competition was even crazier in the face of terrific participation. 

The games were followed by some members taking a guided tour of the fort and museum to soak in the history and grandeur of the place, while some sought refuge in the cold waters of swimming pool, playing water games like polo. And then we had the prize distribution ceremony in some really ‘innovative’ categories like ‘Itna sannata kyun hai?’, ‘Gyaan ka saagar’ and such.

Then came the most awaited event of all: the partying in the company of booze and DJ. And as we danced well past the midnight hour, the floor was well and truly burnt.
The next morning started with a brainstorming session where we discussed, in small groups, about means to improve the collaboration between the teams and rounded up many a notable issue where we could improve upon as a team.

Then there was the auction of 6 paintings done by two of our members, which raised a total of Rs. 3 lakhs for the NGOs Vidya and FMCH.  Finally, on this noble note we bid adieu, albeit with great reluctance, to the two days of extreme fun and frolic to return back.

All in all, the roaring success of the event once again proved that such an occasion provides the perfect opportunity to not only unwind and go berserk, but  also to interact and befriend the colleagues from other teams.  So, may the legacy of team building 2013 be carried forward in all manners!

Mukesh Kumar

Petroleum Engg Graduate

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The White Tiger : a bit unreal, contradictory. Okay.

The White TigerThe White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The tone of the novel is a bit contradictory. An example : On one hand, the protagonist of the story calls himself a 'half-baked' Indian, like millions of others, who are complicit in their own exploitation, are unaware of the ways of the world and are actually 'boys' in the bodies of full grown 'men'. but this self awareness itself contradicts the claim. I mean you can't be half baked and still be aware that you are.
Also there seems to be a confusion whether the protagonist is speaking from his point of view or the author through him, at many places. So, when the narrator is constantly showing us the parts of India which scream out " Yuck Yuck! this is India ", you start feeling twitchy wondering whether this is the person from the lowest layer of the Indian society, venting out his anger or the author who wants to show the supposedly 'elite' readers, the 'real' society. If it's the former case, you can justify the deliberate exaggeration of the filthiness, but if it's the latter, then it becomes a little problematic. But you can never know for sure, for you never understand whose voice you are listening. Also some portions remind one of the bollywood potboilers of 70's and 80's.

Still overall it is an interesting novel and an enjoyable one with no heavy handing or patronizing the reader and with some really witty and powerful insights into the world of the oppressed. And also bereft of any moral underpinnings.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

हज़ारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी, कि हर ख़्वाहिश पे दम निकले।

मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब 

हजारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी कि हर ख्वाहिश पे दम निकले

बहुत निकले मेरे अरमाँ, लेकिन फिर भी कम निकले

डरे क्यों मेरा कातिल क्या रहेगा उसकी गर्दन पर

वो खून जो चश्म-ऐ-तर से उम्र भर यूं दम-ब-दम निकले

निकलना खुल्द से आदम का सुनते आये हैं लेकिन

बहुत बे-आबरू होकर तेरे कूचे से हम निकले

भ्रम खुल जाये जालीम तेरे कामत कि दराजी का

अगर इस तुर्रा-ए-पुरपेच-ओ-खम का पेच-ओ-खम निकले

मगर लिखवाये कोई उसको खत तो हमसे लिखवाये

हुई सुबह और घर से कान पर रखकर कलम निकले

हुई इस दौर में मनसूब मुझसे बादा-आशामी

फिर आया वो जमाना जो जहाँ से जाम-ए-जम निकले

हुई जिनसे तव्वको खस्तगी की दाद पाने की

वो हमसे भी ज्यादा खस्ता-ए-तेग-ए-सितम निकले

मुहब्बत में नहीं है फ़र्क जीने और मरने का

उसी को देख कर जीते हैं जिस काफिर पे दम निकले

जरा कर जोर सिने पर कि तीर-ऐ-पुरसितम निकले

जो वो निकले तो दिल निकले, जो दिल निकले तो दम निकले

खुदा के वासते पर्दा ना काबे से उठा जालिम

कहीं ऐसा न हो याँ भी वही काफिर सनम निकले

कहाँ मयखाने का दरवाजा 'गालिब' और कहाँ वाइज़

पर इतना जानते हैं, कल वो जाता था के हम निकले


चश्म-ऐ-तर - wet eyes

खुल्द - Paradise

कूचे - street

कामत - stature

दराजी - length

तुर्रा - ornamental tassel worn in the turban

पेच-ओ-खम - curls in the hair

मनसूब - association

बादा-आशामी - having to do with drinks

तव्वको - expectation

खस्तगी - injury

खस्ता - broken/sick/injured

तेग - sword

सितम - cruelity

क़ाबे - House Of Allah In Mecca

वाइज़ - preacher

Friday, May 17, 2013

A farewell to arms and roses. My Lolita. My Shrew. My ISM.


A farewell to arms and a farewell to roses.
A farewell in all different kinds of poses.

A farewell to the battles, a farewell to wars.
A goodbye to goosebumps and a farewell to scars.

A farewell to dreams and a farewell to stars.
A sayonara to substance and a farewell to farce.

A goodbye to love that we lost and we gained.
A farewell to hearts that we won and we pained.

And a farewell, my ISM, my Lolita, my Shrew.
Yes, we had our moments but oh very few.

Wish to hunt down the time-bird, wish I were a hunter.
To give us more moments, for love and for banter.

Wish we could make love, forever and ever.
But I know you well! You will find some one other!

So, a teary goodbye to your tantrums and snares.
And a farewell to your treasures, your bounty and cares.

Last few days at ISM and the thought of separation is tormenting me. O how I wish we could extend this affair. How I wish to re-live and renew the years gone by. So many things left unsaid. So many wishes unfulfilled. Alas! all we got to say is : goodbye.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Asimov's Rest of the Robots : A dud in the Robots series !

The Rest of the Robots

Foundation universe # 0.2 

The Rest of the Robots by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

[2.5 * actually.]

Who would have thought that Mr. Asimov would deliver a dud ? Not me, fur sure!
After reading the wonderful 'I, Robot', my expectations had been raised sky high, so it is rather painful to accept that 'The rest of the robots' is nowhere near its predecessor, in fact is a real disappointment with only the 'Susan Calvin' stories showing some promise.

I guess if someone has written more than 500(!) books, you ought to give him some leeway, for he is bound to falter at some point. And mind you, I sincerely believe that my disappointment with this book is more because of having gone through 'I, Robot' first. I am pretty sure that if this had been my first book in the Robots series, I would have enjoyed it much more. So that is how it stands.

That is why, I would suggest anyone willing to start Robots series, to begin with this one only, and then move onto 'I, Robots' and the rest. For that is the best way to enjoy this book, I suppose.
Anyway, hope that the 3rd installment of the Robots series will live up to the expectations.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

दास्तान-ए-ताहिर...छोटी सी नुमाइश

( शायरी # 3 )

ग़ज़ल ~ 1

तू ख्वाब है, मैं ख्याल हूँ, तू है संग-दिल तो तराश दूँ॰

तुझे चाँद-तारों में ले चलूँ, तुझे चाँदनी का लिबास दूँ॰

यूँ मेरी नज़र से नज़र मिला, कि मेरी नज़र में नज़र भी आ.
तुझे आज तक ये खबर नहीं, मैं तेरी नज़र के ही पास हूँ.

तेरी जुस्तजू, तेरी आरजू, मेरे दिल में तू, मेरे रूबरू.
कभी घट गयी, कभी बढ़ गयी, जो बुझी नहीं, वही प्यास हूँ.

जिसे चाहा था, उसे माँगा था, वो मिला नहीं, तो गिला नहीं.
जो भटक रहा है, इधर-उधर, उसी हमसफ़र की, तलाश हूँ.

तू भी कम नहीं, कोई ग़म नहीं, मेरी आँख "ताहिर", नम नहीं.
ये ख़ुशी के मोती, उभर रहे, तुझे वहम है, मैं उदास हूँ.


दिल में हूँ, नज़रों से बहुत दूर नहीं हूँ.
ग़म के गलीचों में भी,  रंजूर नहीं हूँ.

महफिलों को छोड़ना, मेरा नसीब था.
मशरूफ हूँ ज़रूर, पर मगरूर नहीं हूँ.


तेरी हसरत, मेरी उलफ़त, का सबब बन बैठी.
मेरी फितरत, तेरी नफरत, का सबब बन बैठी.

मैं भी शैदाई था तेरा, मगर था मुफलिस भी.
मेरी ग़ुरबत, मेरी तुरबत, का सबब बन बैठी.

गलियों में भौंकने वाले, दरबार सजाये बैठे हैं.

दर-दर फिरने वाले, व्यापार जमाये बैठे हैं.

थी जिनके पास, खुद्दारी, ज़मीर की दौलत.

कितने अहमक थे, घर-वार गँवाए बैठे हैं.


ग़ज़ल ~ 2

वो इश्क फरमाने की बात करते हैं.
और दुनिया-ज़माने की बात करते हैं.

फितरत में वफ़ा का कोई वजूद नहीं.
और दिल लगाने की बात करते हैं.

चूड़ियों का बोझ संभाला नहीं जाता.
और ग़म उठाने की बात करते हैं.

लिबास तौबा! जिस्म की नुमाइश है.
और मुँह छुपाने की बात करते हैं.

काँच के पर्दों में क़ैद नशीली आँखें.
और जाम पिलाने की बात करते हैं.

उठ के जाना कुबूल नहीं पहलू से.
और हाथ छुड़ाने की बात करते हैं.

हासिल है शौहरत रकीबों में "ताहिर"
और साथ निभाने की बात करते हैं.


ग़ज़ल ~ 3

तन्हाई में जब उसने, ख़त मेरा पढ़ा होगा.
दिल उसका भला कैसे, काबू में रहा होगा?

जब मेरी मुहब्बत में, दिल उसका जला होगा.
बहती हुयी आँखों से, काजल ना बचा होगा.

सखियों ने बहुत उसको, मजबूर किया होगा.
तब नाम मेरा उसने, शरमा के लिए होगा.

लुटने का मेरे उसको, जब इल्म हुआ होगा.
माथे पे हसीं आँचल, शायद ही रुका होगा.

जिस वक़्त किताबों में, ख़त मेरा मिला होगा.
सीने से लगाकर फिर, होठों से छुआ होगा.

मिलने की तड़प उसको, बेचैन किये होगी.
मजबूरी में फिर तकिया, बाहों में लिया होगा.

यादों में मेरी उसने, कुछ शेर लिखे होंगे.
और नामे-ग़ज़ल उसने, "ताहिर" ही रखा होगा.

( Disclaimer : All works above are creations of Mr. R.Tahir Khan )

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The end of eternity...and the end of a 'good sci-fi' drought

My first pleasant encounter with Asimov

The End of EternityThe End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I am still reeling from the effect of finishing this one. This is just my second Asimov novel, which I picked purely because it was unconnected to any of his other series ( viz. the Foundation and the Robots ), and what a treat it turned out to be! Such an intriguing story full of every bit of concept and paradox possible within the purvey of time-travel and such delightful flights of speculations( which mind you are very logical ) into the human future! Truly Amazing!

Although I agree, to an extent, to the common criticisms leveled against Asimov's works such as the characters being caricatures and not very fleshed out and the story being plot-driven only. But I enjoyed so much and it was so stimulating to read this that I hardly noticed the above mentioned 'pitfalls'. I mean, does it really matter if the time-traveler guy behaves like a comic book character when you are travelling up-when to 30,000 centuries in the future or are pondering over such delicious questions as in what were the 'reality changes' induced due to your last visit to 275th century ? or what would be the minimum necessary change required to be effected in the space-time fabric of 95th century so as to prevent an imminent war ?
There is just so much to enjoy as well as to ponder over here : dilemmas like whether the opening of an 'eternity' channel and insistence on 'correcting' the past in order to get the best possible future will stifle the evolution of man as a species ? Whether the advent of time-travel totally undermine human advances into exploring the universe and colonizing the galaxy! Heady stuff.

Though I admit that I haven't read a lot of quality science fiction to boast about, but surely this is the best I have had so far.

And so this last query to Mr. Asimov, if he doesn't mind : Where have you been so far ? Why on earth and time had I not discovered you earlier ?
'Guess it's never too late', I can hear him whisper this reply. :)

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The legend of Chhath Puja

Abridged notes on its possible origin

    • Is only practiced in those areas where there was the rule of Chero tribes in the past.
    • The worship of Surya takes place twice a year on the 6th Chaitra Sudi and 6th Kartika Sudi. Every caste participates in it, even muslims in UP, Bihar. So there is no caste based allegiance, hints at tribal origin.
    • 'Chatth' is derived from 'Shashthi', the date of worship.
    • Brahmans have no role to play in the puja, almost, except for determining the tithi. ----> means non-Brahmanic origin of the worship.
    • Cheros were a group of tribes that had power over eastern UP and Bihar, belonged to the lower castes at one time. However, converted to higher caste by Brahman collusion. Later when they lost power ----> again to low castes, but some were able to retain power, hence high status (caste).
    • But the worship practice was retained, as it was something that the tribe indulged in and was independent of whether the tribe came or went out of power.

Caste system : myth buster and revelation session

Insightful excerpts from the book by Sachchidanand Sinha.

  • Man is born with certain predispositions to respond in specific ways to outer of the in-variants of human behaviour is the hostility of members of one human group towards another one.In fact inner cohesion and solidarity among men are observed to be directly related to their hostility towards other group.
  • The inherent superiority of 'Aryan race', 'middle kingdom', 'white-man's burden', 'socialist fatherland' have all been used to satisfy the tribal conceit of peoples or to act as camouflage for some murderous intention. This form of rationalization is common in group behaviour. 
  • Basic causes of caste or any other stratification :
    • Genophobia
    • Urge of status - domination of men over men in a group and by a group over another, which results in material advantages and prestige.
    • Myth-making, an innate compulsion of man. Every thing is considered a part of a grand design and plan. So even while acting in self interest, men feel that they are acting according to certain rules or ideology that has been pre-decided.
Specifically in case of Indian caste system, it may have been because of :
    • Excahnge relation between agricultural core surrounding pastoral and hunting tribes.
    • The Varna myth arising from the interaction of pastoral conquering horde with settled agricultural people.
    • The primitive fear of pollution enforced by the belief in philosophy of Karma, which became specifically prominent after Budhhism.
  • Dharmashastras' prohibition were no where really in operation, and it was possible for people in lower varna to acquire knowledge and wealth, and with connivance of Brahmans to acquire higher varna status. Because raising one's varna status was so easy with the collusion of brahmans that few who got the capacity to do so, found it futile to challenge the varna system.
  • In many cases where a tribe raised itself to Kshatriyahood, a Parsurama legend was invented.
  • Legend of Rajputs :
    As more and more non-Hindu tribes, in successive wars became dominant in north and west, a large warrior clan calling themselves Rajputs were accorded Kshatriya status, that was needed to protect the Brahmanical order. In the south or east, kings clamouring for Kshatriya rank were not grouped under one caste like Rajputs as there was more threat in the northwest, hence the need to group the warrior clan into a common caste.
  • Conditions of castes and their food habits and manners were a far cry from recent times, as also from the idealised picture of society that we get from Brahmanic literature. The forbidding moral codes enjoined by the Shastras were, in all probability, merely the fantasy of a frustrated minority of priests who found the goings in the world difficult for themselves, and hence carved out a dreamland.
  • Manusmriti myths
    • Since it was compiled between 200 BC and 200 AD, which was a period of turmoil, large parts of India was under attack by foreign hordes. There was hardly a stable empire. So, it is unlikely that Manu code could have been applied anywhere. It was hibernated, nourished perhaps on paltry paps from Brahmanical princes. 
    • The British rulers were the first to provide the code its large scale legitimacy. It also led to the festering of bitterness between the castes.
  • There was a greater mobility in the past, although without a smooth change over but rather through force, suddenly.
  • Reasons for persistence :
    • It was extremely adaptable, would accommodate new elements within its structure, making change of the system unnecessary.It may seem paradoxical for a system filled with rigidity, but whenever a new tribal element arrived at the scene, it was find a place near the bottom of the hierarchy, and later with the acquisition of power and influence, find its way up. So the need to destroy the system was not there. But the advent of British froze it and no further movement could happen.
  • Impact of industrialization under Britishers :
    • In the urban areas, where modern industries came up, there was a semblance of caste system dying out. But in the villages, caste oppression tended to increase  as the lower castes ( artisans and all) were rendered jobless and poorer. This gave caste system a new lease of life.
  • Rigid Varna system in South ?
    • Caste segregation much more rigid in south of Vindhyas as in the north the Dharmashastra dispensation against Shudras was just a product of fevered mind of Brahmans, anguished by their decline in power.They were merely giving vent to their torment. But in distant lands, the new converts might take these injunctions more literally and try to impose them zealously, a common feature of new converts to faith worldwide.
  • Karma theory :
    • It is likely that this theory predates Hinduism and Buddhism. Might have originated from the belief in mana. But then it got associated with castes.
  • There is persistence of belief that stratification in society arises through peaceful evolution. The truth is everywhere, whether it be slavery or feudalism, it was due to use of force. that a section of people were brought under obligation to serve another. Only in the capitalist system has the use of force been replaced by subtle socio-economic pressures.
  • Sense of Unity throughout India :
    • Continuity through the overlapping layers of tribal groups, that is otherwise difficult to explain. It is the tribal spread covering most parts of the country which works as the underpinning of the sense of cultural unity that so baffles people. It is this vague feeling of unity lingering though tribal tradition.
    • This sense of nationhood is not based on any imperial ambition, it is a search for identity, that he can find in when he identifies with all the places where his forefathers may have been.
  • Endurance of castes in spite of industrialization  as it seems to provide a sense of security to the members who are disadvantaged.
  • Even on changing religion, the caste affection remains :
    • Muslims : Sheikh, Sayyid -----> high castes, Momin ----> lower
    • Christians : Syrian ---> Nayars, Nmboodari brahmans ( high ), Latin ---> lower
  • Caste system served the purpose of composing the diversity of Indian people. Although it was a hierarchical system, it served its purpose as it had two safety valves in place :
    • possibility for lower orders to seek enfranchisement at the point of sword, by getting ruling status, by carving out a kingdom for itself.
    • Emphasis on the renunciation of worldly goods as the highest aim of man : so highest honour of society could be acquired by becoming a recluse : by both high and lower castes.

      So the tensions cause by frustrations never reached a flash point to cause disruption.

Monday, March 25, 2013

God delusion : Much needed voice of reason in midst of insanity

The God Delusion
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Frankly, this book is beyond any ratings. It is an eye-opener, consciousness raiser and curiosity builder all rolled into one.
And this MUST be read by EVERYONE, I mean every rational person that is.

Mr. Dawkins deserves all the accolades and respect for actually providing us, in the form of this book ( and other of his works ), courage and hope to dream of a future where REASON alone will trump all, where ignorance, half-truths and blind faiths will be a thing of the past.
Yes, it is a bit repetitive and polemical in tone, but it is all the more essential in these times, where fundamentalism of all sorts is on the rise.
But reading the book is not sufficient, it is necessary to keep reminding ourselves, time and again, the teachings of this book and to keep our spirits of inquiry and questioning in tact and to embrace the truly magical world of science and reason.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mini musing : Roy's God of Small Things

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melancholic. Deeply moving and poignant. Read something so heart-touching after a very long time.
Also the atmosphere of dread and impending danger that Roy creates in the novel is exquisitely real and frightening.
And by the end you are left with a deep sense of hurt and helplessness at the thought of our own lives being insignificant in the face of larger scheme of things. Of being nothing but a speck of dust in the vast ocean of history and society.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 11, 2013

O My Lolita, how I wanted to love you !


The love affair that never materialised

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

O Lolita! I wanted to love you, I sincerely did but I didn't have the courage neither the tact to handle your tantrums! O how I wish we had more time on our hands and there could be some shortcut to win your heart, but as it transpired, there wasn't any. So , I am sorry Lolita for my ineptness to take this affair to the full course, still you would always be much revered and a special friend. Although I am not sure if our paths would cross again, I would remain hopeful for a second and much more fruitful rendezvous. So with a heavy heart I bid a teary adieu, Lolita!( if only I could say My Lolita )

On a serious note, could not really enjoy the word-play and fancy prose to the fullest. For I believe this novel requires a really patient and slow reading, over a long stretch. As it turns out, probably I picked the right book at the wrong time then! Which is such a shame, for it could have been so much more fulfilling and satisfying. And I wonder, if I would be able to muster the patience required to give it a go again in the future, which again is rather sad. But I have my fingers crossed.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Animal Farm : some thoughts

Animal Farm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those must-read books that actually lives up to its reputation. Though one would appreciate the satire in the narrative much more if he is well acquainted with the Russian political history after the Bolshevik Revolution, nevertheless, reading it otherwise is no less enjoyable by any means. The only issue could be the over-the-topness and lack of subtlety in the narrative but I guess it was essential when you are handpicking a few highlights from the sprawling history of a movement/nation and using it for mocking the movement itself.

The most memorable character is undoubtedly, Boxer, representing the hardworking peasant class. His story is the most heartbreaking.
And of course one of the most memorable one-liner : "All men are equal but some are more equal than others."

Casino Royale : the name is BOND, brooding BOND !

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

** The name is BOND, brooding BOND **
Brooding and human, o boy! this is the James Bond that I did not know of.Bond is mostly seen as an uber-cool male fantasy icon, a super-macho-spy and one man army who could destroy entire worlds with a wink in an eye and a girl on the side.

But long before becoming all that, he was apparently, a flesh and blood character who could feel pain, love, betrayal and the whole gamut of human emotions, while still retaining bits of the rakish charm intact. And the story itself used to be many shades darker than the usual 'guns, gadgets and gals' capers that we are accustomed to seeing in his movies.

So, how refreshing it is to see, Bond pondering over the uselessness of demarcating the world in terms of good and evil states. To see him confused and questioning the notions of patriotism and the whole killing-business in the name of it.
It is a revelation to feel see him feeling insecure and tortured upon falling in love with a recluse figure. To see him taking precautions to keep his cover and being wary of the enemy while amusing one and all with the detailed description of Vodka-Martini.
Being a bit more complex and 'real', this Bond is so much more interesting than the flat caricatures of the movies.

Ian Fleming the creator of this iconic figure, had declared that he modelled James Bond on himself and the numerous senior officers that he encountered during his stint with the secret service and it shows, mostly in the meticulous descriptions of Bond's activities and his attention to details. In fact, many of the incidents of the novel had been inspired by real life incidents, most notable being the bombing attempt on Bond and the game of Baccarat itself that is the central premise of the story. The difference being that in real life, Fleming himself had lost the game with a hostile while in the story he shows Bond winning it, thereby fulfilling his own fantasy. Even the description of the villain of the story, Le Chiffre, was based on the persona of an occultist Aleister Crowley.

All these touches add up really nicely to build an intriguing story. And add to it, the enigmatic, elusive character of Vesper Lynd, probably the only female figure whom our super spy gave his heart to and you have a memorable novel at your hand.

Just wonder why Mr. Fleming completely changed Bond in his later novels. This was the original Bond and a far better one.

Status in rhymes

An eccentric (and must say very naive) attempt on 27/03/2010

Even though the sun roars with glare
a fresh tinge is in the air

and even though we toil and bear
we lack an iota of despair

something special being cooked up here
which at the moment I just cant share

but please don't wonder nor do stare
and don't let your fancies run unaware

It's something far not anyway near
which you will know when the time comes ,dear

So keep it cool and just take care
I have got nothing more to share.....

( Was written in 1st year, out of excitement for being selected for AIESEC internship in KL. Feels like decades ago )

The curious case of "SAFAL APRADHI"

Ruminations on a rare novel.

This is NOT a typical 'Suniliyan' novel, in fact far from it. This novel belongs to the period when Sunil didnot have much of a 'character' baggage to carry, when Ramakant was yet to develop a Punjabi twang and the novels were oh-so-crispy. Those were the days when you could take out a 10 p coin and call somebody via a booth ( as per the story ), when Sunil could behave merely as a smart yet bumbling reporter and not the know-it-all, super detective at work, when even he had to depend on a certain Mr. Chatterjee to deliver legal counsel to those in distress.

Unfolding in just about a 100 pages, the pace of the story is break-neck, with many a twist and turn, that are bound to keep one on the edge of his seat. There is hardly any irrelevant piece or prop in the whole story. Even the mention of the most trivial-seeming situations and the most innocuous of props like a tumbler, end up playing an important role eventually.

During the course of the whole novel, Sunil is himself equally mystified as the reader, about the proceedings. Curiously, there is a total absence of the overconfident demeanour, which in later novels, became a trait of his, while contemplating over the case with Prabhudayal. Nor is there any in-your-face sort of bravery or smartness. Yes, the smart-talk is there, but in its rudimentary form, which barely gets noticed (thankfully !). In short, in this particular outing, Sunil is more of a character than a serial-hero.

But the most curious and undoubtedly the most interesting part of the story is its novel ending : where you are gearing to accept the identity of the criminal, as revealed by the author and are waiting for a summary of the repercussions of this revelation on other characters. But instead, what you get are doubts and more niggling questions cropping up and you start wondering again. By the end, the perpetrator of the crime is eventually identified but not unambiguously, not without leaving you with lingering questions that are never resolved completely. Hence you are never fully confident if justice was actually delivered.
This whole twist adds a certain amount of believability to the story and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.You end the novel with a tinge of sadness regarding the limitations of the whole legal and crime-detection system.

It surely deserves firstly, a read, for the thrill and the fantastic ending and also a little more fame than what it has actually received over the years.

pic : Surender Mohan Pathak, Author

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

सितारों से आगे जहां और भी हैं ( शायरी # 2 )

The glorious Allama Iqbal 

सितारों से आगे जहां और भी हैं
अभी इश्क़ के इम्तिहां और भी हैं

ताही ज़िन्दगी से नहीं ये फ़ज़ायें
यहां सैकड़ों कारवां और भी हैं

कना'अत न कर आलम-ए-रंग-ओ-बू पर
चमन और भी, आशियां और भी हैं

अगर खो गया एक नशेमन तो क्या ग़म
मक़ामात-ए-आह-ओ-फुगां और भी हैं

तू शहीं है, परवाज़ है काम तेरा
तेरे सामने आसमां और भी हैं

इसी रोज़-ओ-शब में उलझ कर न रह जा
के तेरे ज़मीन-ओ-मकां और भी हैं

गए दिन की तन्हा था मैं अंजुमन में
यहाँ अब मेरे राजदां और भी हैं

----------- अल्लामा इकबाल.

Sitaron Se Aage Jahaan Aur Bhi Hain
Abhi Ishq Ke Imtihan Aur Bhi Hain

Beyond the stars are even more worlds
There are still even more tests of passion

Tihi Zindagi Ke Nahin Yeh Fazaayein
Yahan Sainkadon Kaaravaan Aur Bhi Hain

These expanses are not devoid of life
Here there are hundreds of other caravans too

Qanaa'at Nah Kar Aalam-e-Rang-o-Bu Par
Chaman Aur Bhi, Aashiyaan Aur Bhi Hain!

Don't be contented with the world of color and scent
There are other gardens, other nests (resting places), too

Agar Kho Gaya Ek Nasheman Tho Kya Gham
Muqaamaat-e-Aah-o-Fughaan Aur Bhi Hain!

If a nest (home) was lost, what's the [cause of] grief?
There are other places for sighing and lamenting

Tu Shaaheen Hai, Parvaaz Hai Kaam Tera
Tere Saamne Aasmaan Aur Bhi Hain

You are a falcon, your task is to fly
Before you there are other skies as well to cover

Isi Roz-o-Shab Mein Ulajh Kar Nah Rah Jaa
Kih Tere Zamaan-o-Makaan Aur Bhi Hain

Don't remain entangled, in this day-and-night
For you have other times-and-places too

Gaye Din Ke Tanhaa Thaa Main Anjuman Mein
Yahaan Ab Mere Raaz-Daan Aur Bhi Hain!

The days are gone when I was alone in the gathering
Here, now, I have other secret-sharers too

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

कर लेता हूँ बस यूँ ही मैं कुछ शेर-ओ-शायरी, वरना तो मैं दिल से बहुत ही खुशमिजाज हूँ

( शायरी # 1 )

क़रीब है यार रोज़े महशर ,

छुपेगा कुश्तों का खून कब तक ?

जो चुप रहेगी ज़ुबान-ए-खंज़र,

लहु पुकारेगा आस्तीन का !

तू अगर दोस्त है तो नसीहत ना कर खुदा के लिए...

मेरा ज़मीर ही काफी हैं मेरी सज़ा के लिए...

चढ़ती थीं उस मज़ार पर चादरें बेशुमार

बाहर बैठा कोई फ़क़ीर सर्दी से मर गया

~ अनजान


चेहरों के लिए आईने कुर्बान किये हैं ,

इस शौक में अपने बड़े नुकसान  किये हैं ।

महफ़िल में मुझे गालियाँ देकर है बहुत खुश,

जिस शख्स पर मैंने बड़े एहसान किये हैं ।

----   राहत इन्दौरी

Udtee huyee nigaah se bhala kya jaan sakogey

Ibaarat hain zindagi, hum akhbaar nahin hain -

--- Irshaad Kaamil

Phool sa taaron sa koi humsafar mat dhoondhiye

Patharon se hi nibhaiye, dil jigar mat dhoondhiye

Main sakoon ki qaan, mera shor se kya vaasta

Mere andar gaon hain, hazrat shehar mat dhoondhiye - 

--- Irshaad Kaamil

Apni apni raah pe chal raha hai har bashr

Kaun kisko kya kahe kaun kis manzil pe hai

---  Irshaad Kaamil

आगाह अपनी मौत से कोई बशर नहीं

सामान सौ बरस का हैं पल की खबर नहीं

मौसम-ए-बहार करे सजदा सुबहो शाम तुझे

अलावा मुस्कुराने के ना रहे कोई काम तुझे...

--- सुरेन्द्र मोहन पाठक

शहर क्या देखें, के हर मंज़र में जाले पड़ गए,

ऐसी गर्मी है, कि पीले फूल काले पड़ गए।

मैं अँधेरों से बचा लाया था अपने आप को,

मेरा दुख ये है, मेरे पीछे उजाले पड़ गए।

----  राहत इंदौरी

अब ना मैं हूँ, ना बाकी हैं ज़माने मेरे।

फिर भी मशहूर हैं शहरों में फ़साने मेरे.

ज़िन्दगी है तो नए ज़ख्म भी लग जाएंगे ,

अब भी बाकी हैं कई दोस्त पुराने मेरे।

----  राहत इंदौरी

कर लेता हूँ बस यूँ ही मैं कुछ शेर-ओ-शायरी,

वरना तो मैं दिल से बहुत ही खुशमिजाज हूँ |

----- अनुपम  सिन्हा

तमाम उम्र जलाये हैं खून ए दिल के चिराग

यूँ ही नज़र नहीं आती सजी सजी रातें |

जिन पर लिखी हुई थी मोहब्बत की दास्ताँ

वो चाक चाक पुर्जे हवा में बिखर गये

-----  बशीर बद्र

खबर नहीं मुझे यह जिन्दगी कहाँ ले जाए

कहीं ठहर के मेरा इंतज़ार मत करना।

----   मुनव्वर राना

अपने अपने तौर पर सबने पहचाना मुझे,

नेक ने नेक और बद ने बद जाना मुझे।

----  सुनील ( डबल गेम )

दिल नाउम्मीद तो नहीं, नाकाम ही तो है

लम्बी है ग़म की शाम मगर शाम ही तो है

आँख में पानी रखो , होठों पे चिंगारी रखो ,

ज़िंदा रहना है तो , तरकीबें बहुत सारी  रखो ।

ले तो आये शायरी बाज़ार में राहत मियाँ

क्या ज़रूरी है की लहजे को भी बाज़ारी  रखो ?

----राहत इन्दौरी

दर्द जब तेरी अता है तो गिला किससे करें

हिज्र जब तूने दिया है तो मिला किससे करें ।

भुला भी दे उसे जो बात हो गई प्यारे

नये चराग़ जला,

रात हो गई प्यारे!

---- (हबीब जालिब )

किसने दस्तक दी है दिल पर कौन है ?

आप तो अन्दर हैं, ये बाहर कौन है ?

-- राहत इन्दौरी

सारी फितरत तो नकाबों में छुपा रखी थी

सिर्फ तस्वीर उजालों में लगा रखी थी

-- राहत इन्दौरी

रुखसत हो गए तुम बिना किसी लिहाज़ के,

महफ़िल जवाँ थी, पर अफ़सोस कमबख्त हो तुम मिजाज़ के |

गुज़रेंगे जाने वाले, मन्ज़िल युं ही रहेगी।

अफ़सोस हम ना होंगे, महफ़िल युं ही रहेगी।

-----साभार : एजेन्ट विनोद

जिस धज से कोई मकतल से गया ,

वो शान सलामत रहती है,

ये जान तो आनी जानी है ,

इस जान की कोई बात नहीं है।

जिसे इश्‍क़ का तीर कारी लगे

उसे ज़िदगी क्‍यूँ न भारी लगे

न होवे उसे जग में हरगिज़ क़रार

जिसे इश्‍क़ की बेक़रारी लगे

---- वली दक्कनी

सितारों के आगे जहां और भी हैं

चमन और भी हैं आशियाँ और भी हैं।

कि शाहीन है तू, परवाज़ काम है तेरा

तेरे सामने आसमां और भी हैं।

---- इकबाल

तू ज़िन्दा है तो ज़िन्दगी की जीत में यकीन कर,

अगर कहीं है स्वर्ग तो उतार ला ज़मीन पर!

ये ग़म के और चार दिन, सितम के और चार दिन,

ये दिन भी जाएंगे गुज़र, गुज़र गए हज़ार दिन |


आगाह अपनी मौत से कोई बशर नहीं

सामान सौ बरस का हैं पल की खबर नहीं

ज़मीं दी है तो थोड़ा आसमाँ भी दे

मेरे ख़ुदा मेरे होने का कुछ गुमाँ भी दे

अरमां तमाम उम्र के सीने में हैं दफ्न ,

हम चलते फिरते लोग मज़ारों से कम नहीं


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Just a morsel

What actually is a SATIRE ? And what makes it effective and truly potent ?

We often think of satire as being some sort of twisted version of the reality, a parody of the 'real' thing. It won't be wrong to state that many a times we do not think of a literary or cinematic work to be having satirical content unless it consciously mocks at something : either a person, an institution or an idea. And to achieve that, many a times writers use absurd elements in their plots. And we accept that as a legitimate plot-device. Probably because we have this perception that being a satire, it has to be absurd and far from truth, and there is constantly a 'feeling' in us that 'reality' is something really dark and dirty and rough and that it is just too mature to be having any comical side to it.
So anything even remotely humorous has to be unreal and absurd.

In light of the above arguments, how refreshing it is to come across a new and revealing perspective shared by author Manu Joseph, in an interview recently, on the concept of humour and satire. This is what he had to say :

"One important thing I believe about humour is that at its core is accuracy. When you’re extremely accurate about something, it becomes funny."

So, in effect, he contends that if you are being uncompromisingly precise about something, to the fullest of detail without leaving anything, it becomes funny. Must say it is a really interesting viewpoint and sort of changes the way we 'believe' a satire or a work of comedy in general should be ! And if we think about it carefully there might be some merit in the argument too.
A classic satire such as 'Netaji Kahin' or 'Raag Darbaari' could be examples that actually lend support to the above point. In these works, the authors don't use a mocking tone throughout the narrative, to cater to our notions of what a satire should be. The tone, most of times is matter-of-fact without any conscious emphasis given on mocking. Nor is there, I doubt, any absurdity or 'unreality' included in the plots. I don't know if this is a representative sample of the genre or not but at least in these two cases the arguments of Manu Joseph seem to hold true. And effectively, it shows that life and 'reality' don't necessarily have to have a constant scowl on their faces, that they can possess a funny bone too. :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Netaji Kahin : a really hard hitting satire

An example of continued relevance of corruption literature of yesteryears, in India

Netaji Kahin by Manohar Shyam Joshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Netaji Kahin'नेताजी कहिन' आज से 26 साल पहले लिखा गया था परंतु आज के पाठकों और आज के माहौल के लिए भी इसका कटाक्ष उतना ही सामयिक है और उतना ही तीखा भी। बस इसमें जहां जहां हज़ार रुपये का उल्लेख है उसे लाख से और जहां लाख है उसे करोड़ से बदल दीजिये और ये आज भी उतना ही प्रासंगिक हो जाएगा।
हास्यात्मक शैली में लेखक ने, हमारे देश के राजनीतिक जीवनशैली में सर्वव्याप्त भ्रष्टाचार और पूरे जन समाज के ही नैतिक पतन का जैसा चित्रण किया है वह झकझोर देने वाला है और डरावना भी। सबसे हृदयविदारक बात ये है कि उपरोक्त का वर्णन आपको किनहिं मामलों में आज के भ्रष्टाचार के किस्सों से उन्नीस नहीं लगेगा। केवल एकाध शून्यों का अंतर मिलेगा लेन-देन के हिसाबों में,बस।
इसी कारण से इसकी कथा से 'golden-ageism' के उस सिद्धान्त को भी बल मिलता है, जिसके अनुसार हमें सदैव ही गुज़रा हुआ ज़माना, सुहाना और हर दृष्टिकोण से आज से बेहतर और सभ्य नज़र आता है और सारी कमियाँ और त्रुटियाँ वर्तमान में ही नज़र आती हैं। क्योंकि यदि इसके कथ्य के हिसाब से चलें तो कोई खास अंतर नहीं मिलेगा आज के और आज से 26 साल पहले के समाज में।
इसलिए यदि इसे पढ़कर आप निराशावाद के पुजारी हो जाएँ तो कोई बड़ी बात नहीं। अतएव इसे पढ़ें पर इसके 'after-effects' के लिए भी तयार रहें।

All my reviews on Godreads

Gawaahi of GAWAAHI : my thoughts on a gem of a novel

GawaahiGawaahi by Surender Mohan Pathak
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

GAWAAHI : my thoughts

There are such fascinating characters and situations in this novel that clearly show the true abilities of the author Surender Mohan Pathak and proves that he is much more than just a pulp-writer.

Firstly, there is the deliciously complex and layered character of elder brother (Neelesh, a cop). He seems so real , his mannerism and behaviour so rooted to reality that I dare say this is the most real portrayal of a cop in a novel that I have read so far. He is not a flag bearer of bombastic heroism, neither is he a daredevil anti-hero sort of a character. He is just a plain, pragmatic man helplessly stuck in the cobwebs associated with the job of a policeman. He is corrupt, true; but no more than the cop next to him and not because he likes the perks associated with it but because its the way of the trade.
On the other hand, there is the superb character of his younger brother, who has a touch of sweet naivety and idealism. And Neelesh is is genuinely concerned for him, not because he hates his idealistic sermons but because he knows it could get him into troubles that he can never foresee himself. That's it, no more, no less.
For what they were worth, because of his links with the mob and nefarious politicians, Neelesh does get into a hell of a mess while putting his brother's life in jeopardy too. The dilemma that he faces, the almost unanswerable questions that he is forced to ponder upon, remind us of Arjuna in Mahabharata. But the characters never turn into archetypes. They remain what they are.
And one is bound to seriously start rooting for them, hoping that they could find a way out of the mess.

Although the end is a little too convenient for a novel that has such a great buid up, still it is a worthy read just for the tough moral questions that it raises through the pro(?)tagonist and for reinstating one's believe in the fact that Pathak ji is still holding the flag high for the Hindi pulp fiction genre.

All my reviews on Goodreads

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Journey to nowhere

Walking over a thousand mile
Getting not a single smile.
The journey begins with hopes held high...
with dreams of climbing mountains high.
But a whirlwind comes and you can't fly,
And the road ends with just a sigh.
With aims shimmering and goals cut short..
and 'shortcuts' sprouting from every spot.
how could anyone think of not...
setting the hallowed mission 'abort.'
a self doubt seems to hover..
you ponder and keep thinking over.
"As if caught in a circle with no end...
You have to wonder why you are send"

dedicated to all such students who walk long distances to lecture halls with a resolution to learn something new and a hope of gaining some knowledge....only to see their dreams shattering and beliefs diminishing !!

Freedom at Midnight : recollections of a really epic experience. 

An excellent example of how reading can be a life-changing experience.

Very rarely comes a defining moment that changes history to the extent of being un-recognizable and very rarely comes a book that changes your life, perceptions and everything that you presumed to be true once and for all. Independence of India was the defining moment in modern India and this book by the author duo Dominique Lappierre and Larry Collins on the before and after-math of the same is the defining book in my life.

Honestly speaking, not even the most lauding words of mine can do justice to this beautiful, poignant and soul-stirring historical documentary cum novel in which we glide through the charming yet terrifying history of our own nation during the period of 1939-49, stupefied, terrorized and wide-eyed in awe and chill, as the author duo take us on a once-in-a-lifetime kind of ride that is bound to change our very perceptions of history, beliefs and ideologies regarding the very country and society that we inhabit. 
Frankly, never has a single book amazed and intrigued me so much, while being so educative and informative.

The most astounding achievement of this book is that it rips out the aura of myths that have agglomerated around our political figures associated with the freedom movement, and humanizes each and every one of them, while being totally neutral, and being absolutely honest with the facts. 

Every Indian has grown up on a staple of myths and legends associated with our freedom fighters. These fables have a tendency to sweep history in very broad strokes, ignoring much and instead forcing us into believing generalised facts such as those about all Britishers/foreigners being diabolic, all freedom fighters being pious to the hilt and many others. Well, be rest assured that this book will end up ripping out each of those notions and burning them to cinders. 

Another fascinating aspect of this book is its characterization of Mahatma Gandhi, so real yet surreal at times. It shows you in clear light, the real essence of being the father of a nation. It shows you what it meant to be one M.K.Gandhi. You are bound to bow in humility and fall in love with this mahatma, whether you have read good or bad or nothing about him before.

The other facets of the Indian independence story like the Kashmir problem and the issue of princely states have also been dealt in a very detailed manner too and are wonderful read on their own accord themselves.

There is also a very horrifying and realistic account of the tragedy of partition and its bloody aftermath. Through this piece, the author-duo have delved into some of the darker sides of the prominent figures of that era and the whole populace as a whole. This portion is the most gut-wrenching one and you are left to wonder in amazement at the sheer magnitude of craziness and horror of the whole episode. One gets to know why this is the one deep blemish that has stained the minds of every subsequent generation on the both sides of the border. 

This book is recommended for anyone interested in knowing our freedom fighters, freedom movement, the Raj, the Maharajas and the Mahatma very substantially, if not wholly or in full measure.
Above all, this is recommended for every Indian who wants a tryst with the quandary that is INDIA. 

[ Lastly, I am sorry if I ended up writing a eulogy instead of an honest critical review, but such is the place of this book in my life, that it is almost impossible for me to view it in a critical way. ]


p.s :  link to world of fiction page : Link 1
       link to goodreads page         : Link 2

Friday, January 4, 2013

My rant against Erich von Däniken's treatise : Chariots of Gods

Recommended for: Conspiracy theory researchers, rumour mongers

This is pseudo-science and story telling at its very best. This best selling book was probably the water shed moment in the proliferation of conspiracy theories and other pseudo-scientific stuff in the popular literature. And one can see why.

To be fair, the author does know how to spin a yarn. It is an enjoyable read, fast paced, if you consider it more as a fiction novel and don't take it seriously.

But the disturbing fact is the sheer confidence of the author in his most ridiculous and logic-defying assumptions and hypotheses. With a condescending view towards the historians, he goes on blabbering about one misinterpreted archaeological evidence after the other, citing numerous out-of-context mumble-jumble about this Physics principle and that astronomical data with a stunning conviction.

Though you feel sorry for the hapless millions who have actually religiously accepted this book as a treatise on human evolution and birth of civilization.

It shows the sheer absence of clear, scientific thought among the masses and the adherence to half-truths, myths and conspiracy theories. As long as that prevails, works like these will keep on attaining best-selling status.


You may think it was too-critical but I assure you I was being way too lenient in the rant above. This book deserves to be trashed and criticized even more severely.