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.

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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.

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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.

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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