Lok Pal - The Film

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It is May 2012. King Khan is back with another super duper block buster movie. The movie is titled, Kahani Lok Pal Ki. (Please note name starts with K) Once again Shahrukh Khan is doing something that has never been done in Bollywood before – he is doing 13 different roles, breaking Priyanka Chopra’s record of 12 roles in ‘What’s your Rashee’. The story is about a 13 member panel that is going to decide on the final Lok Pal Bill. Let us go over the members one by one.

The first member is the middle class Sharukh Khan from Rabne Banadi Jodi complete with a moustache. Let us call him MCK. Then we have the Khan in the other avatar from the same movie. Let us call him 6 pack Khan (6PK). The third member is the autistic Khan from My Name is Khan. Let us call him MNK. The fourth one is the one from Don complete with long hair and all that. Let us call him DonK (The K to be pronounced as Kay and not Key). The remaining two looks we take from the movie Ra-One, one super hero Khan (SHK) and South India Khan (SIK, Please note there is no C, silent or otherwise). That makes it six. What about the rest? Here is the twist. We are going to take the age old Judwah Bhai concept to a new height. The other six are the twin brothers of the first six. It would have been tempting to make the six evil twins, maybe six twins as government representative and other six as civil society representatives. But that would be politicizing the movie and it would have never got past the censor board. So to distinguish let us add suffix -1 and -2 without any reference whatsoever to government, opposition or civil society. So we would have MCK-1 and MCK-2 for instance. And there still remains the matter of the thirteenth Khan. Given the popularity of romantic vampire movies in the west , let us bring it to India as well and have a Romantic Vampire Khan (RVK-13).

Next let us have a look at backdrop. No one will come and watch a movie set in a boring room. There was one movie like that called 'Ek Rukha Huva Faisla'. No wonder the film never made it to the theaters. Cinematography is often the gamechanger. So this is the deal.We have a standing committee, standing on top of an open bus touring through Europe and carrying out their discussions. In addition to having shots covering scenic Europe, this will give an opportunity to introduce Katrina Kaif (spoiler alert!) on a bike falling in love with one of the members (which member is suspense) and an item number by Yana Gupta as well along the way. After all people who buy the movie ticket pay to see all this. Who wants to watch just a simple story? For that they can sit at home and watch Malayalam movies.

Without any more ado, let us get to the movie. The story (or whatever its equivalent is called in Bollywood) starts in Switzerland, right in front of the snow covered Alps. The discussion begins.

SIK-1: We are drafting bill. Soup Bill. Flop Bill. Why this Kolaveri Kolaveri Kolaveri Dee? (Are the protestors listening?)

Everyone joins in and the sing in chorus. Angels come and join the dance. The place gets filled with smoke and mist.That the first song in the movie and we move on to more serious matters.

MCK-2: Ok. So we want to make a really strong bill. A bill so strong that not a single corrupt person can escape!

DonK-1: That’s impossible. However strong bill you make, you cannot catch Don. Not only is it difficult, in fact it is impossible.

The whole theater breaks into applause. That's King Khan style. By now they are outside Eiffel Tower in Paris.

MCK-1: So the bill have to cover all class A, B,C, D government employees both at center and the state.

MNK-1: I don’t know all these classes. My mother has told me there are only two classes – good and evil.

A senti song plays in the background with flash back scenes.The audience is in the verge of tears. Now we move on to London for the next part of the discussion.

MCK-2: All members of parliament including prime minister would be under the bill. And the Lok Pal will be independent of government control.

SHK-1: Let us also include all software engineers under the bill. They keep breaking their initial company bonds all the time. Isn’t that also an act of corruption?

RVK-13: That’s a good idea. Let us include all MBAs as well. They travel on economy and charge their companies business fare. We definitely can not let these bloody blood suckers get away.

SHK-2: Cool. Some superheroes wear a mask, this one wears a heart. We need only ones with hearts, not ones with masks. All these bloggers hide their true identity behind masks. That is also a form of corruption. Let us bring them also under the bill.

Katrina Kaif passing by on a bike hears the talk about super hero’s hearts and falls in love with SHK-2. There is a duet song and then we move on to Greece for the next shot.

6PK-1: In order to hunt down all these people, even a 6 pack Lok Pal team won’t be enough. We would need a large wolf pack team. So I guess we better drop some folks from the bill’s ambit. The level C and D employees are the most in number and seem mostly harmless. So let us leave them out.

6PK-2: And I propose we leave the prime minister and the cabinet ministers out. You know they handle matters of national security. If Lok Pal gets into all that the terrorists can take advantage.

MNK-1: Terrorist! Terrorist? Terrorist! My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.

MNK-2: What a coincidence! My name is also Khan and guess what! I too am not a terrorist!

MNK-1: Wow! We both are Khans and both of us are not terrorists. Then we must be brothers separated at birth.

A senti song about brotherly love starts in the background. Audience is again overwhelmed with emotion. We move on to Spain for the last scene.

SIK-2: Let us make the bill a constitutional amendment. For that we need the support of lot of MPs and MLAs. No way will they support the bill if we have them under its ambit. So let us drop them from the bill in order to ensure the bill passes.

DonK-2: The bill is looking excellent now. But we still need to make one more little change to make it really tight. Our constitution seeks to abolish all class, caste and creed. So it would go against the tenets of our constitutions to discriminate against officers on basis of class. So it can be challenged in the court and the bill will become unviable. So let us leave out the Class A and Class B officers as well.

So we are almost near the end. We still have the 'patriotic' item number followed by the bull festival. All the panel members run with the bulls and give speeches on what each one has learnt from the journey. The movie ends with the passage of the strong bill that is going to bring all corrupt software engineers, MBAs and bloggers to book. A spirit rising song plays in the background. "Honge kaamyaab, honge kaamyaab hum honge kaamyaab ek din ho ho mann main hai vishwas poora hai vishwas........."

Diary of the Narcissist

For a long time, I did not know that Blog was short form for ‘Web Log’. The entire blog concept started as online journal where one can share moments from his or her life. From there, the concept of blogging has expanded to various genres and it is fast emerging as an alternate to books, magazines and Newspapers. Diary of the Narcissist is however a blog by it true traditional definition, an account of interesting happenings in the life of an Indian undergraduate student.

I find the blog title very interesting and apt. You need to really love yourself to be able to write interesting posts that others will love. And what better name for such a person than ‘Narcissist’! However one should not be mislead into thinking his posts are all boastful and highlighting his achievements. On the contrary, his posts are very humble and down to earth I would say. Each one of his posts is a gem I must say. I started to read 5 of his posts for the review and ended up reading close to 20 of his posts.

The language is simple and lucid. Most of the posts are written in a casual conversational tone and are very easy to read. The flow has been maintained well consistently across posts, making use of dialogues wherever necessary. They make really enjoyable reads that can be read in less than 5 minutes. The posts have also been made visually appealing by adding well chosen images. Most of the incidents covered are the kind of incidents that each of us must have across in day to day life. But the way he has written it capturing all the small details with a light sprinkling of humor brings a smile to one’s face. The incidents also feel very real and the Tamil and Malayalam words added here and there only add to it.

The theme of the blog is minimalist. For a personal blog one cannot say what the ideal look and feel should be like. It depends on the personality of the blogger. The blogger comes across as a simple down to earth person from his posts. That way the simple theme goes well. There is nothing to distract the reader. The post background, font and color are all friendly to the eye. The widgets have been well chosen. The “Do you like?” widget is possibly one he could do away with. People generally don’t give such feedback. I like all the other widgets. The flipping through is a nice one for instance. His posts are ‘random’ in his own words and a new reader may like to read just any random post which option this widget gives. Similarly the Wibya bar is nice. It kind of reminds the reader to bookmark/follow the blog.

The navigation for this blog is excellent. Other than the widget I mentioned earlier, every post has a related posts section and also every post has a link to the previous post. It would possibly be good to have next posts link as well, in case a reader starts somewhere close to the beginning. The archives are also there. But that is of course not the most convenient method of navigating a blog. When browsing from office where most widgets are disabled and images don’t come up properly, I found the previous post link most convenient. And I must say once you read one of his posts, you will feel like clicking the previous post link.

The interaction is pretty decent. The comments clearly reflect the reader is able to personally relate to the posts. And the blogger acknowledges every comment. Not sure for this kind of blog, if the reader would come back to see if the blogger has replied. Not much scope for any kind of discussion as such. But it is good to acknowledge anyways. I am user a new reader would find the ‘FAQ’ and contact pages useful. Also having a separate page for blogroll rather than having it on the side bar is a good idea. That helps the blog benefit from link exchanges without cluttering the front page.

As of now I don’t see need for too much more improvement in this blog. Maybe highlighting the top 5 posts may help retain new readers. As they say first impression is best impression. This blog is less than a year old. So I see lot of enthusiasm. I have seen many blogs like this coming up well and then suddenly disappearing into obscurity. I hope this blog sustains for long. It is easy to write such posts when at college. College friends and family tend to be very sportive. But office colleagues and social acquaintances tend to be touchy. You never know who might be reading your blog and whose raw nerve a blog post may touch. So once into professional environment people tend to get a bit shy about expressing their views openly on a blog, especially after an unpleasant incident or two. This is one pitfall I would ask this blogger to beware of. A little bit of forethought and some caution before posting should help avoid such situations and I am sure the blogger can continue to produce gems.

Overall I would say this blog is a nice read for someone in office who is feeling bored or wants to de-stress for 5 minutes between work. His posts won’t make you guffaw aloud drawing your boss and colleagues’ attention towards you. But they will definitely make you smile quietly to yourself, feel refreshed and get back to work.

Let me present below 5 samples from this blog handpicked by the blogger himself that will help you get a glimpse into his writings.

Describing my ideal partner (in 45 sec)
Today's parents
Job in Paradise
“What are you?”, she asks

If your a blogger and you like this review and feel you want a similar review for your blog, check out this post.

So long and thanks for the jokepal, Team Anna

It started with a bang and has ended with a whimper. Reflecting on the Anna Hazare movement, I am reminded of a story I read in the childhood. There was this little boy who yelled ‘Wolf, Wolf’. All the villagers came running. But there was no wolf and they went back disappointed. Once again after some days, he yelled ‘Wolf, Wolf’. Again everyone came running. Once again no wolf and they went back even more disappointed. Then one day, the wolf really came. But when the boy yelled ‘Wolf, Wolf’, no one came. Can’t say if the wolf is at our door yet at this point of time or not. But when Anna Hazare called out this time, not many came. And the government looks to be at the verge of passing something called a LokPal bill, blaming opposition for not giving it a constitutional status.

Let us go back in time – 8 months back. The whole country was raging from the recent revelations related to the 2G and CWG scams and looking for an outlet for their feelings. In comes a knight in shining armor – our Anna Hazare, promising a Lok Pal bill that is going to be panacea for all evil. We are all excited and charged up. Thousands flock to the ground to support him. The entire media lionizes Anna. The government bows to civil society. Victory is proclaimed and people are cheering.

8 months have passed and what is it that we have got now? CBI will continue to be under government control. Lok Pal will not have its own investigating agency. The government will have the major say in choosing the Lok Pal members. So the government can keep the institution under leash the way the Chief Election Officer and the country’s President are currently. The government got to play caste and community card as well by introducing reservation. As it is states that have implemented Lokayukta are not finding suitable people to fill the posts. Reservations are going to make it even tougher to find the right people. It would be a good excuse to keep the Lok Pal in suspended animation in case it gets too problematic. A government controlled Lok Pal would also serve as a good whip to bring in line senior bureaucrats like this Vinod Rai of CAG who try to act too smart. Possibly Lokayuktas controlled by the central government would give one more handle to the central government in addition to the governor to arm twist state governments of states ruled by opposition parties. No wonder opposition parties are up in arms. And finally, the small fry are kept out of the Lok Pal ambit. These are the ones that cause direct harassment to general public and are easiest to catch. But catching too many of these can be a trouble as they probably will be privy to information related to big ticket corruption and might spill some unwanted beans.

I don’t know if this is what the fight was for. And what did Team Anna get? All small issues like saving money by travelling on budget flights, celebrating birthdays and failure to pay money for breaking employment bonds were raked up. Mud was smeared on all of them. Possibly there were even people who believed these acts were as bad as the 3G and CWG scams. The credibility of the team has been systematically eroded and people have gone back to believing everyone is selfish and corrupt and nothing is going to change in this country. No wonder no one came out this time.

Though I was also all excited when the movement started, now in hindsight I can see it was doomed to fail right from the start. First of all, how can one even imagine any institution will seriously pass a law that will seriously hurt its own interests? Let me draw a comparison with the independence struggle. All that the British stood to lose was some income for Britain as a country. The individual officers did not stand to lose much. Many of them might have actually even been happier leaving hostile foreigners behind and going back to their homes. Compared to that, if a serious Lok Pal is passed, many bureaucrats and politicians stand to lose almost everything they have built all their life – their name, their fame, their wealth and even their freedom. What worse can Team Anna and co do? At best they can be a minor irritant.

Next let us think from the common man’s point of view. Independence was something tangible that everyone could understand and relate to. But is Lok Pal such a cause? It is not at all clear how exactly a Lok Pal bill will improve the life of the common man. Even educated people have doubts about its effectiveness. And there are people who question whether corruption is the biggest evil plaguing the nation. When public anger against corruption was at its peak, any movement related to corruption seemed like an ideal rallying point. Now with the passage of time and cooling of tempers, can it still be such a powerful rallying point? Can people feel passionately about Lok Pal the way they felt about independence?

Last and possibly least in terms of impact, the movement is not really a Gandhian one. People associate theory of relativity and Nobel Prize with Einstein. So they assume by default that Einstein got Nobel Prize for his theory of Relativity, which is not true. Same is the case with Mahatma Gandhi. People associate Sathyagraha and fasting with him. So people tend to assume fasting to get your way is Sathyagraha. Fasting is nothing but emotional blackmail. Something which people having been doing with their near and dear ones all the time! Of course Gandhiji used to indulge in that as well. But I would say that is the worst of Gandhiji and not his best. True Sathyagraha works more at a spiritual and moral plane.

As per my understanding Sathyagraha is a spiritual practice that may or may not lead to social results in the long run. The true benefit would be one’s own spiritual elevation. It is about standing up for what one believes is true in face of great challenges over an extended period of time. The story of Raja Harishchandra is a good example. By doing so one’s own moral fabric gets strengthened and one’s soul gets cleansed, enabling one to experience a greater peace of mind and harmony. Possibly other people will be attracted by your aura and may take up a similar practice. That way it can spread and it is possible the antagonist might also eventually come under the influence of this practice and might voluntarily choose to act in a righteous manner the way King Ashoka did. I don’t think the Anna movement ever attempted to proceed in such a direction. So it would be a misnomer to call it Gandhian in the true sense.

When the movement started I had hope against hope that the movement would succeed. In spite of all their faults, I personally feel Team Anna is sincere and have their hearts in the right place. So in my heart of hearts, I still hope they somehow miraculously succeed. But my head knows the truth. The writing on the wall is clear. ‘That’s all, folks. The show is over. It is time to pack up and head back home! Once again Sachin Tendulkar top scores in both innings but India loses yet another test match abroad. Once again democracy wins; the people lose. Life just goes on.

Stan's Great Books Blog

If one has an eternal life time, one should partake of all of mankind’s knowledge accumulated over centuries. But we do not have an eternal life time. If one has 10 years to spare, one should try to read at least all the 'Great Classics'. But in the current age, where does one have 10 years to spare? In the hustle and bustle of modern life, one can’t find sufficient time to finish even one classic. So what should one do to acquire knowledge? If you ask me, I would say, visit Stan’s Great Books Blog for 15 minutes daily. Stan, who himself has spent close to a decade going over the great classics serves to you small doses of condensed wisdom on his blog.

He writes poetry, philosophy and a lot of essays on really diverse topics. But most of his posts have some connection to the great classics. One of the things I really like about his writing is the way he interprets ancient classics in the modern context. He often tries to bring across the points raised in some of the 'Classics' in the context of happenings in his day to day life or some discussion he had with his children. That adds an endearing personal touch to the discussion.

My description so far may make the blog sound very serious and scholarly. But that would be doing injustice to the blog as Stan in fact has his own unique sense of humor. One can see this in the posts where he highlights some really unusual earthly aspects from the ancient literature. Consider these 2 titles for example – ‘The Great Book on Farting’, ‘Emulating Nude Philosophers

As far as the blog aesthetics goes, I feel the theme has been chosen appropriately. A blog on books must have certain amount of dignity to it. One cannot have a frivolous background with widgets scattered all around. So the simple layout with the picture of the book case in the back ground goes pretty well. The background color and font are pretty clear making it easily readable without too much strain on the eye.

Talking about navigation, he provides two ways of navigation – one the archives and the other the labels. One can use the labels to quickly refer materials related to a specific author or book. However with 280 posts on varied topics, there are currently more than a hundred labels and it can be tedious to scroll through them to find a certain topic. I would suggest some kind of grouping of topics and leveraging the pages feature of BlogSpot to more effectively organize the topics. Alternatively some widget which adds search functionality to the blog can also be explored

Anyone who leaves behind a comment can look forward to a very interesting exchange of viewpoints. Stan goes over each comment in detail and gives a detailed reply. There is also the ‘Ask Stan’ section where the reader can ask Stan any general question related to the ‘Great Classics’. And the questions usually serve as the topics for his posts. So I would say this is one of the better blogs for deeper interactions.

This blog is ideal for the serious student of literature who wants to have a different perspective on the great works. A general reader seeking to learn something new may also find the blog quite interesting. Other bloggers may also get interesting ideas for blog posts from this blog. At times however, some of the posts can go over the casual reader’s head. It is difficult to relate with some of his posts. But in general, most of his posts make really interesting and enriching reads.

One suggestion to Stan would be to bring some recurring pattern in the posting say a certain type of post on a certain day of the week. This gives the reader a sense of continuity and improves the chances of the reader becoming a regular at the blog.

I present below 5 posts selected by Stan himself to give a glimpse into Stan’s writings. Do check them out and let me know your feedback on Stan’s blog and my review. I hope Stan continues his good work and I hope his followers double and treble in the coming months.

Bible and Hippocrates on hemorrhoids
I am no Jayadeva
Abish on female peaches
How to Build Ethos When Speaking
A Dialogue Between Enwombed Twins

If your a blogger and you like this review and feel you want a similar review for your blog, check out this post.

Blog Reviews

I have noticed lot of people requesting for blog reviews on online forums. But there seems to be too few reviewers. So I have decided to start reviewing blogs. Anybody who wants their blogs reviewed by me, please read further.
What are my credentials?
  1. This blog has been running for 4 years, 112 posts, 160 followers.
  2. You can check the review section of my blogs to see my book and movie reviews. Now I am planning to extend it to cover blogs, computer games and cartoon series as well.  
  3. I have been reviewing SOPs of hundreds of MBA aspirants at a popular MBA website.
  4. I have been sent free books for reviews from 3 different sources
  5. Indimag selected me as the best commentor
Is there any minimum criteria for me to review a blog?
Yes. Fortunately or unfortunately I have a full time job and a family and I need to write my own posts too. So I can only review limited blogs. So I would restrict myself to only serious blogs. So the criterion is:
  1. Blog should be at least 13 months old
  2. Blog should have atleast 21 posts
  3. There should be at least one post per month for the last 4 months
How many blogs I will be reviewing?
I would be reviewing one blog every 15 days on an average. When I am relatively free, I shall do 2 or 3 a week? When work is hectic, it will be once a month.
What will the reviews be like?
The reviews will be right here on my blog. They will be detailed and cover aspects of content, layout, navigability and interaction. I will not cover SEO and technical aspects as I am not familiar with those. The opinions would entirely be my personal opinion covering both positives and negatives. You can chose to disagree. The post will have back links to your blog.
How to request a review?
Since I need to be selective, I would need some information for deciding. Please answer the following questions.
  1. The link of the blog
  2. The objective of the blog (Entertain, Informational, Social cause, Share feelings, Literature etc.)
  3. The links of 5 best posts according to you
  4. What is special about your blog/writing?
  5. Does it cater to any specific niche? If so, mention.
How will I chose ?
I would chose based on the following criteria in the same order:-
  1. My interest and knowledge in the niche the blog belongs to
  2. How much I get interested based on the answers
  3. How much I like the selected 5 posts
Where to put the request?
Put your request in the comments section. In case the answers are too long for the comments section, put it on your blog and post the link in my comments section. I am sure anyone who visits your blog for the first time will want to know the answers to these questions.
What if your blog is not reviewed 2 months after the request?
Submit again with updated information or just drop a comment requesting me to consider the old information. Otherwise I might think you have lost interest in my review due to the delay.
Anything else?
If I review your blog and you like the review, I would request you to give me back link and also publicize the review on facebook, twitter and other forums.

Miss Minoes - Review

Mainstream movies come with a lot of hype and the expectations are set even before watching the movies. Even if we know nothing about the movies, we tend to recognize the actors. That kind of sets the expectations based on the actors’ larger than life star image. The stories often end up being pushed backstage. On the other hand when you just stumble into a movie, you have never heard of with actors you have never seen before, the stories and acting come front stage.

I had a similar experience yesterday, when browsing through the TV channels landed up on this Dutch movie called ‘Miss Minoes’ with English sub titles. And I must say I really enjoyed every bit of it. The genre was of course my favorite – children’s fantasy. The premise is simple and executed with perfection. The story is about a cat that gets transformed into a woman. However she can still talk cat language and has the mannerisms of a cat. She talks to all the cats in the city and picks up gossips and passes on to the local reporter. The rest of the story deals with how Minoes the cat tries to fit it into the world of humans and the evolution of Minoes’ relationship with the reporter and his landlord’s little daughter. The corrupt factory owner who is pretending to be an animal lover and the town’s benefactor brings the conflict element in the plot.

The most striking feature of the movie is the performance of the lead actress Carice Van Houten. Every time she is on the screen, the viewer feels he is in the presence of a cat. She has really got into the role, nuzzling, scratching and rubbing noses like a cat. We have actresses in our country that can’t even play the parts of human characters properly and here is a Dutch actress who can carry off the part of an animal with grace and aplomb!

The other thing I liked about the movie was the way the director has maintained simplicity throughout the story. The characters, their motives, the plot – everything is kept to the simplest possible. No one dramatizes or overacts. The viewer is just drawn into the simple life of a quaint Dutch village. The simplicity comes out as a breath of fresh air.

One interesting line I liked in the movie is when the heroine tells the hero that she is full of contradictions being a human and a cat at the same time. The hero replies back that normal humans are also full of contradictions. How true! And then towards the end of a movie the heroine develops compunctions about eating a live bird. Her sister, a cat admonishes her pointing out the hypocrisy of humans who savor chicken but feel revulsion at the idea of cats eating live birds.

Overall it is a short and sweet family entertainer worth watching for an hour and a half of fun.

In quest of a steed

As per my mother, the world has two kinds of people, the ones who have a vehicle and the ones who do not. Unfortunately for most of his life, my father had belonged to the former category and my mother wanted me to belong to the latter category. It was not just my mother. The definition of independence as per one of my wife’s cousins was the possession of and the ability to use a vehicle. Bottom line is society knows a man by his vehicle. So if one has to raise his social standing, one has to have a vehicle.

My quest for a vehicle started at the age of 11, when I tried to learn to ride a bicycle from my friends. I was just 2 days into this exercise that an accident cut it short. I was hospitalized for 2 months and grounded for the next 5 years. The bicycle had had nothing to do with this incident. But my parents followed the German traffic rules where one can lose his driving license for committing a traffic violation while on foot.

But at 16, it was time again to once again undertake the quest. This time my father himself decided to take time out to teach me to ride a bicycle. I was taking time but I was learning and it seemed soon I would be proficient in cycling. Then came the fateful day! There was this steep slope. Father let go of me and I began to pick up speed. I pressed the brake. The brake was not working. I tried to put my foot down and stop. But the velocity was too high to stop with a foot. So I had no option to go on till I came up against a barrier. As luck would have it, the barrier turned out to be a barbed fence. The bleeding all over my body decided things for me for the time being.

After a few more adventures in the next few years, which included injuring my best friend badly, trying to ride a locked bicycle badly damaging my friend’s bicycle, I managed to acquire the necessary skill and was soon a proud owner of a bicycle. But the Gods would not have it. Hermes, the God of the thieves decided to intervene and sent one of his disciples to relieve me of my bicycle. I decided to accept the divine mandate that the missing bicycle indicated and I never attempted to become a bicyclist ever again.

I was soon getting into my twenties. This is the spring time of the human life where the males of the species strut around in their best plumage to attract the females. The cigarette and the motor bike were the coolest signs of masculinity that assured success with the girls. My world was again getting divided into two. The cool punks who vroomed around the city with hot babes and the uncool nerds who sat alone in their rooms with their noses down their books. And it was clear where I stood. My father made a half hearted attempt to remedy the situation by arranging a friend of his to teach me to ride a bike. But the ground under my feet was not firm. The bike skidded over sand injuring me and my instructor. My father’s friend decided that my father’s good will was not worth the occupational hazard of teaching me to ride a bike. And I never learnt to ride a bike nor ever manage to go even half way towards acquiring anything close to a girl friend.

Years rolled by and I had earned my stripes in the corporate world. Once again the great divide reentered my life. Having a car was considered a mark of seniority in the organization and pressure was building on me to acquire a car. I went for driving lessons – not once, not twice but three times at three different driving schools. But still my confidence was not high and I decided to hire a chauffeur. So at last I was one of the privileged ones who had a vehicle. But I had to depend on the driver. Now I understood my wife’s cousin’s definition of independence better. But still life went on. Well, for some time. Once again by luck stepped in. This time recession was the spoil sport. I lost my job and my new job did not pay me enough to be able to afford a driver.

So reluctantly for a fourth time I decided to learn driving. This time I hired a personal trainer. After a intensive month long program I finally got my car on the road. I was at last able to drive. My mother’s eyes were filled with tears. I had succeeded where my father had failed. My father-in-law organized a party in my honor. My cousins from abroad called up to congratulate me. I had successfully cleared the rites of passage in the modern world.

Well that sounds like a happy ending, doesn’t it? I learnt to drive a car and lived happily ever after? Well not really. That was just the beginning rather than the end. Within a month, I was negotiating a right turn quickly when a taxi came speeding by. There was a screeching sound as it brushed past. I tried to ignore the sound and move on. But the taxi driver parked his taxi in front of me and pulled me out of my car. He called me names and demanded payment for the scratches on his taxi. He was an expert street fighter and I had no street fighting skills. All the people on the road stood by him and said it was my fault and I only had to pay. I conceded defeat and had to cough up ten grand and make a hasty exit with a dents both on my car and in my finances. Self driving seemed to be getting more expensive than the chauffer salary at this rate.

The next 2 months seemed uneventful. Then one day I had to take a U turn at a divider. A school bus was coming towards me at a great speed. I had heard of how rash school bus drivers can be. I decided to take a quick turn to avoid the bus. As I turned around, once again I heard the all too familiar screeching sound. This time it was not a taxi. It was a bright red Swift car. A sweet looking woman got out of the car. My confidence went up. She definitely did not look like a street fighter. I had the upper hand this time. Or at least that’s what I thought. I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to cow her down into agreeing it was her fault. But she just disarmed me by asking me for my mobile number. No girl had ever asked me for my phone number in all these years. First time a girl was asking for my number. I was floating in the air. I gave her my number. She took it and left.

An hour after I reached my office, I got a call on my mobile. A rough male voice spoke at the other end. It was the lady’s husband. He was extremely ferocious and apparently knew all the big Whigs in the city. I was once again getting a déjà vu feeling. I knew where this was all heading. I listened to him for some time and finally gave in. Again I had to part with my hard earned money, this time twenty grand. Once I agreed to pay up, the man suddenly underwent a transformation. He become all gracious and amiable. His wife welcomed me home with a cup of tea. I had the tea, gave the money and returned sadly.

Maybe car is not my vehicle of choice after all. Maybe I should move on to something else – a helicopter or a bus. Phew! Life had been so good belonging to the category of men who did not use vehicles like my dad. I remembered those days I used to put one leg on the other and travel like a king to office on the company bus, sleeping or reading story books. Sometimes I woe the day man invented the cursed wheel that has made life so miserable. Life would have been so much simpler riding on elephants or horses. Recently I got to ride a horse by myself. It was absolutely hassle free. I could almost feel a connection with the animal that I have never felt with these cursed automatons.

Note: The picture is taken from the world of war craft. (Wow.com). This site is non commercial. So if Warcraft see me using it, I hope you will be happy for the free publicity.

The latest addition to endangered species list: Leaders?

Where have you all disappeared, leaders? We look to you for guidance. Why have you abandoned us and left when we need you most? We are beset by issues. We don’t know what is right and what is wrong. We look to you for strength and wisdom and vision.

Let me reflect over some of the recent issues – genetically modified crops, nuclear technology, FDI in retail and Lokpal Bill for instance. I have read a lot on each of these issues. I could not reach a conclusive opinion on any of these. The tradeoff in each case seems a difficult one. On one side, GM crops seems like a solution to all the problems of human nutrition needs. On the other hand, there is the risk to our health and putting our food security into the hands of greedy multinational corporations. On one side nuclear technology seems to be the answer to pollution free energy needs. On the other hand, there is the risk of health hazards of radiation to the people in the vicinity and major loss of life if an explosion were to occur. On one side, FDI in retail offers to make distribution of goods efficient, eliminating the leaches in the middle, ensuring both producers and consumers benefit. On the other hand, there is fear that all local production will be destroyed by Chinese goods and both producers and consumers will be left at mercy of foreign corporations. On one side, Jan Lok Pal seems to be the solution to the problem of corruption of bureaucracy. On the other hand, it seems to be just another layer of bureaucracy to slow down the country’s progress.

The devil I would say, in all these issues, lies in the details. And most of us have our own professions and lives and do not have the time and resources to dwell into the details of all these issues. That’s why we need leaders who spend their full time dwelling into the details and taking the decisions that best satisfy the aspirations of the entire nation. No decision will result in a win win situation for all the 1 billion people. Definitely there will be some who lose out. But a good leader can inspire his men to even willingly throw himself off a cliff for the greater good. Thousands of people boldly came out and bore the lathi charge when Mahatma Gandhi gave his call. Didn’t they?

A nation is a too abstract a concept. It is the leaders who present the concrete face to the concept of nation. When leaders do not inspire awe, patriotism cannot be anything beyond frenzied excitement over a cricket match or a Bollywood film. It would be unreasonable to expect a citizen to put his neck on the line for something as flimsy as that. So every decision is going to be resented by the affected people and policy has to come to a standstill. So decisions will get taken only on a reactive basis at the times of crisis and at the bidding of vested interests who can manipulate public opinion using the 3 Ms of money, muscle and media. If this state of affairs continue, I can only see the country and the world in general running like a headless chicken and plunging down a spiral.

An astute observer can notice lot of signs of people’s longing for a leader – a true hero. Idolization of film stars and sport persons is one such sign. Holding on to icons from the past such as Ashoka and Akbar is another sign. Unfortunately, despots and corrupt military leaders capitalize on this situation and come to power. That is like replacing king log with king stork – a cure worse that the disease. Lot of blood has to be shed before democracy is restored. Democracy again brings back the state of pervasive rot and coma causing people to start longing for some vitality and action again. Is there any end to this?

Not Totally Unbeleivable - Book Review

'Not Totally Unbelievable'. Having followed Vibuthi's blog for more than a year I find it 'Not Totally Unbelievable' that she has managed to get published. For I am well acquainted with the caliber of her writing through her blogs and knew it would only be a matter of time. And here it is - her first book - a collection of short stories titled 'Not Totally Unbelievable'.

One of the key challenges in compiling a set of short stories is to find a common theme connecting the stories. It becomes even more challenging when all stories are of a single author because the number of stories is limited. And if the author happens to be versatile, the challenge is further compounded. At a first glance if one were to look at the stories in this book, they will look totally unconnected. The stories are scattered across the space time continuum, with one story in China, one in Germany, one in Mumbai and some of them set in recent times while others set close to a 100 years back. Given that, I find the way the title links the stories together a real master stroke. Each story covers a different facet of what one may find unbelievable. On one side we go into the twilight zone with stories on ghosts, rebirth and clairvoyance. Then a few somber themes such as suicide and death. And touching tales on how ordinary people transcend their limitations and achieve the impossible through persistence, hard work and love. And last but not the least a comical take on the workings of fate.

Every one of us will have a thousand stories to tell. But not all stories have the same charm. What makes a story fascinating is the minor details that make the stories come alive and give the reader a vicarious experience of living through the story. Vibuthi has excelled in this element. The loving attention she has given to every little details make the stories feel real and filled with life. The other aspect I really liked about the stories is the strong human element. She has etched out each of her characters beautifully. Even established authors fall into trap of casting the protagonists of all their stories in the same mold. But Vibuthi has managed to give a unique personality to the lead character of each of her stories.

The biggest positive element in all her stories is the strong positive element. All the stories are brimming with optimism and celebrate life. In fact she has even managed to give a positive twist to inherently negative themes such as suicide and death. The positivity in the stories are actually a reflection of the positivity she effuses in her own life as she mentions in the acknowledgement section of the book.

As they say, even the moon has dark spots. So definitely one can definitely find flaws if one were to look for them. If one were to read some of my other reviews, one can see I tend to take a balanced view pointing out failings even in works of great masters in the art of storytelling. By choosing not to harp on the areas that need improvement in Vibuthi's writing, I am by no means implying that she has transcended these literary giants. It is just that I feel nitpicking is not the need of the hour for a young author taking her baby steps in the world of literature. What she needs right now is encouragement to keep up the good work and strive to reach greater heights. I promise you Vibuthi, I shall come down real hard on you the day you write a best seller selling a million copies.

The book is a bit small for 95 Rs compared to some of the other books available in the market at the same price point. But it is a nice book to have around when one waats to take a small break amidst the busy schedule at work or in the kitchen or while waiting in a queue at a government office. I wonder how many people have the time for lengthy novels or even the longer short stories. After all nobody has time for test matches these days. 20-20 is the flavor of the season. And so is micro fiction. I can assure the reader that each of these little stories will bring a smile on her face. So do buy and read this book and encourage this budding writer. The book can be bought here.

Fifty grand worth of apparel

In the Tamil movie Arunachalam, our superstar Rajinikanth is asked to spend 3 million in one month in order to receive an inheritance of 30 billion. How many of us wish we were in a similar situation! QVENDO has provided us with a similar opportunity. Stakes are much lower though. You spend 50,000 and you get 50,000. And the 50,000 you get to spend is imaginary. But luckily the 50,000 you get on winning at least is real. But still not too bad a deal, eh? So I have also decided to throw my hat into the ring. Or rather pull a hat out of the ring. Not just any hat but a magician’s hat. So that is the first thing on my wish list – a magician’s hat. That would cost around 10,000 bucks. And still another 40,000 to go.

The contest has this stuff about registering with QVENDO and going through their catalog. But then the contest is going to be judged based on the style quotient. So in a true Rajini style, I want to go about creating my own catalog and not following along the catalog created by someone else. So I am sure the next item to buy would be found inside the depth of my heart and not on any catalog. So I dive down into my heart 20 years deep. I am standing in front of a shop in commercial street in Bangalore. On the front panel, a Spiderman suit is displayed. I am looking at it longingly. But my father earns a mere 800 Rs a month pulls me away firmly after seeing the price tag of 200 Rs. Suddenly I am back to the present.  The time to make that childhood dream come true has finally arrived. So that would be the next item on my list – a spider man suit. That’s another 10000 well spent.

Next we move on to one of the most important apparel items – the shoe. I have read somewhere that in US, joggers are murdered for their shoes. Shoes have always been held in high importance in human culture. Shoes have on different occasions served each of man’s three basic needs – food, clothing and shelter. The shoe’s utility as an item of clothing is obvious. Let me point out instances of its use in the other two contexts. Many of us might have read a nursery rhyme about an old woman who lived in a shoe during our kindergarten days. That’s the shelter part. And as far as the food goes, if you read some shipwreck stories, you can come across instances of shoes being the means of salvation for starved souls. In case you have not read any, I suggest you pick up Yann Martel’s ‘Life of Pi’. Having stressed the importance of shoes, the shoes I have liked most are the ones villains in movies have with knives hidden inside them. How I wish I had one of those! So that’s my next item. I am sure such a cool item will be worth 10,000.

I think my wish list so far might be creating an impression of me as a person with a violent streak. But nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact I am true Gandhian at heart. I have read ‘My Experiments with Truth’ seven times and I have hallucinations of Bapu’s ghost appearing before me and conversing with me all the time, asking me to send ‘Get well soon’ messages to all my enemies. I even have a ‘Get Well Soon’ message ready for the organizers of this contest in case I am not selected as one of the winners. I would like to wear a pair of Gandhi glasses to show the world my love and respect for the father of the nation. Is 10,000 too much of a price for an item so priceless.

Nowadays there is lot of buzz about men needing to explore their feminine side and stuff like that. So I think I will use my last 10 grand to explore my feminine side in a desperate attempt to win the hearts and thereby the facebook likes of my female readers. What better choice for this than a pink colored umbrella with floral designs! Only challenge is it might not cost that much. But one can easily remedy that by getting the umbrella made out of rich satin and its handle out of ebony. If it is still not costing 10,000 bucks, I will still choose to buy it for 10,000 bucks. After all isn’t it the buyer who decides on the true value of something? For me, the happiness of my blog readers is worth much more than a mere 10,000 bucks. But 10,000 Rs is enough to finish off the 50,000 bucks. So here goes.

Having made my choice I logged on to QVENDO site to find these items. But unfortunately I could not find any of them. But then they keep introducing new collections all the time. So I assume these items will be part of their future collection after I have won the prize. So many people have chosen items from past collections. So why can’t I choose things from a future collection? It wouldn’t be fair to be biased towards one direction of time, would it?

People who want to check out the current collections of QVENDO can click this link. You might not find any of my items on their list yet. But I still urge you all to register and buy all the other good stuff they are selling. And guess what! Shipping is free of charge! Please click here and like my entry on facebook. There is a prize based on the number of likes received.

What if we don't go Organic?

A race called humans owned a very special planet called earth. Every year Mother Earth would sprout forth a bounty of fruits and vegetables and grains that could feed millions of them. All the food made them healthy, wealthy and wise. They flourished and soon millions turned to billions.

Just think”, said a wise man, “If we could have all the fruits and vegetables that are inside the earth, we could feed many more with lesser land and also build factories, residential complexes and shopping malls.

You’re right,” said all the rest of them, “We wouldn’t have to wait for Mother Earth to sprout food slowly every year.”

So they decided to pump chemicals into her to make her produce more food faster. The chemicals made her feel sick but she tried her best to keep up with the rate of production demanded of her. Due to the production and time pressure, she could no longer lovingly fill all food with as much goodies as she would have liked. The reduction in nutrients began to tell on the human race’s health and various diseases began to show up. But they did not give a damn. Who cared about diseases? A small dose of chemicals and all the uncomfortable symptoms would vanish. What was important was to produce more and more, faster and faster. 

Now they had large amount of food. But it was still not enough. They discovered that the race of insects who shared the planet with them was also sharing their food. What insolence! They decided to teach the insects a lesson. So they poisoned all the food. The insects would eat the food and get exterminated. That would teach them not to mess with humans. It did not matter that the poisons were harmful to the humans themselves too. Chemicals would protect them. 

Next they noticed that not all foods were equal. Some food was getting produced faster and in greater quantities while others were laggards. So they decided to eliminate the laggards and favor the achievers. The loss of variety further diminished the nutrients available to man. But then as usual there were always chemicals to make up the deficit. Further men discovered they could design better foods than Mother Nature and began to force her to produce the foods designed by them.
By now the writing on the wall was clear. The chemicals were not able to keep pace with the spread of diseases. More and more of them were falling sick and dying. But their faith in chemicals was deep rooted. Of course chemicals were the panacea for all problems. Just that they had not yet discovered the right chemicals.

 Mother Earth began to feel very depressed. She was being made to work longer hours and there was no job satisfaction. It was just drudgery producing more and more of the same stuff designed by humans. The chemicals and poisons hurt her and she was under great pain. Finally, one day unable to bear the stress, she gave up and dropped dead. The humans dug deep into her bowels. But there was not a morsel of food left inside her. In their greed, they had killed the mother who fed them and now they would die with her.

Related Post: The Curse of the Last Swan

The pictures have been taken from the internet.  The credit for the pictures to the best of my knowledge in the order of appearance is given below. In case the orginal owner feels credit has been wrongly given or does not want to share the pictures, please do let me know. I will do the needful.
  1. http://redwoods.info/
  2. http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/hhw/howto/fertilizer.htm
  3. http://nanoall.blogspot.com/2010/12/nano-encapsulated-pesticides.html
  4. http://jimbonham.com/blog/genetically-modified-foods/
  5. http://www.lazydesis.com/chai-time/19641-10-great-inventions-should-invented-part-2-a.html
  6. http://blog.gabrielmorka.com/

Bombay Duck is a fish - Review

My first thought on picking up a book called ‘Bombay Duck is a Fish’ was curiosity on why a fish would be called a duck. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently this fish, native to the waters near Mumbai used to be processed, dried and transported to East Bengal on the Bombay Mail (Bombay Dak) train during British times. The fish gave its odor to the train popularizing the term ‘you smell like Bombay Duck’ (Dak corrupted) and in return the train gave the fish its name and so the fish came to be called Bombay duck. So what has this got to do with a story on Bollywood? Well, isn’t Bollywood an illusory world of glitz and glamour where things are not what they seem? A world where what seems a duck may be a fish in reality! A world where on screen fantasy is a façade behind which lurks a dark world filled with politics, backstabbing and debauchery. This book explores the journey of a small town girl who comes to India’s tinsel town with a dream.

Neki Brar, the protagonist of this book is a MBA from a middle class family in Amristsar who ditches a cushy corporate job offer in Delhi choosing instead to come to Mumbai in pursuit of her dream. Many stories have been told about men and women with dreams of becoming actors. The story of someone wanting to become a film maker however comes as a breath of fresh air. It takes the reader inside the engine of a movie to explore the cogs that make the movie work. It all looks so simple on the screen and it is often so easy for spectators to watch the movie and criticize. But a movie is not just about hero, heroine and story. There are so many other things to coordinate – the songs, the music, the backdrop, the camerawork, the dances, the supporting cast, the costumes, etc! The director and her team of around half a dozen assistants have to combine all these elements together and provide a seamless viewing experience to the spectators. Neki starts her career as the junior most member of this team. This book provided a wellspring of information on all the efforts that take place behind the screen. The fact that the author Kanika Dillon herself has been through this path lends an air of authenticity to the narrative.

One must say this book definitely has its heart in its right place. Neki comes across as a genuine person, someone who we come across in our day to day life. One can definitely relate to her aspirations and feelings. In some ways she reminded me of the female leads in the English movie ‘Devil wears Prada’ and the Hindi movie ‘Fashion’. However I did not find Neki as endearing as the other two. Probably Neki’s stoic cynicism was infectious making me experience a sense of detachment from her travails. Also I feel the story moves on flat terrain like a toy train rather than like a roller coaster without any elements of surprises, shocks and euphoria. There is always a sense of impending doom and the victories seemed minor and kind of Phyric.

As far as the characters go, Neki’s character was definitely quite well etched. There are quite a few other interesting characters too – the other assistant directors, her room mates, the second hero Ranvir Khanna for instance. But most of them seem mere shadows hardly making an impact. I could hardly remember anything about any of them at the end of the book. The only character who left a lasting impression on me was Aslam the line producer, a shrewd manipulator with a dirty sense of humor.

The narrative is in first person, some of it excerpts from her diary and some reflections on her past as she sits on the terrace contemplating suicide. But somehow the diary entries and memories are not well demarcated and kind of flow into each other. Giving her diary a name ‘Nano’ was a cute feminine touch. The narrative has quite a bit of sarcastic humor. But I felt it was half hearted and there is continuous vacillation between trying to win the reader’s sympathy and being sarcastic. Both these positions kind of neutralize each other. But there are lots of portions that do give a good laugh. It is also interesting how she keeps introducing some piece of trivia and relating it to the events that are happening. She also tries connecting the events with her mother’s diet tips, her father’s favorite book 'Sidhartha' by Herman Hesse and Freudian theories. Whereas this works handsomely in some places, it seems artificial, contrived and out of place in others. One of the things I really love in the narrative are the letters to her mother in which she twists the facts and gives a sweet sugar coated version of the happenings in her life.

Overall I give thumbs up to this book. Kanika is a new voice in Indian literature with an honest story. This book might not win any literary awards or be a mass entertainer like ‘5 point someone’. But she still definitely manages to holds her own. The reader would definitively get value for his 195 Rs and 6-7 hours.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Ender series (Bean Saga) Review

There’s nothing more pure and cruel as a child” says Jet Black in the cult classic anime Cowboy Bebop. This might seem quite paradoxical and totally contrary to our opinion of children as the paragons of all human virtue. But if we think of it, it actually makes sense. Innocence and lack of guile, which are the key virtues of a child, also gives the child immense power to commit acts of terrible cruelty without a hint of hesitance or remorse. In real life, probably we do not come across these instances so much because children are too weak and their actions tend to be restricted by adults. But a closer observation of their behavior with insects and smaller animals will probably bring out the point. Read the rest of this post here on my dedicated science fiction blog.

Dune Series Review

As far as good writing goes, usually the devil is in the details. When writing about the present, many authors usually try to draw from personal experience. Some authors go to length to experience really dangerous and awkward situations to be able to depict them accurately in their stories. That can be a challenge but it is not impossible. Things get tougher when writing about the past. Here one can't rely on personal experiences unless some day time travel becomes a reality. So the writer has to depend on second hand information. He has to pore over numerous accounts regarding the period of time he is covering in his story to get a mental image of how things would have been in those times. Wherever details are not there, he has to fill up the gaps with consistent assumptions. Now how about the future? That too not the near future but really distant future! This is the task faced by writers of science fiction. Different writers deal with this differently. Easiest way is to keep the narrative sketchy. Another way is to keep most of the things same as current times but add futurist elements in some aspects alone. A third alternative is to go full throttle but hope the reader would forgive them for internal inconsistencies. It takes a real master to take up all the aspects of environment, society, economy, politics, technology, culture and social values and extrapolate them into the distant future in full detail and weave a story around them. The one master who has accomplished this is Frank Herbert in his Dune series – a magnum opus indeed!

Click here to read the rest of this article on my blog dedicated to science fiction, fantasy and Historic Fiction.

Legacy of Bharatavarsha

A pall of darkness spread over the land of light.
Plundered and looted century after century,
Our ancient mother land lay bound in shackles
Enervated, helpless and worn out, a legacy lost.

Invaders powerful came sailing from far away seas
With a hand of iron the land they ruled, for were they
Of war craft, masters; of umpteen battles, veterans
No answer had we for their canons and muskets

But one hero stood in their path of complete dominion
He held no gun, no sword not even a humble kitchen knife
Half naked, thin and starved, was he; a most unlikely warrior
But held he a weapon secret, most powerful and potent

One weapon to rule them all, one weapon to bind them all
Lord of all swords of metal that cut wood and flesh
Is the sword of truth that cuts through deception and lies
This sword, the legacy of this land, he held in his heart

For this is the land of the noble king Harish Chandra,
The noble Raja who to keep his word gave away his kingdom,
Sold into slavery, himself, his queen and his one and only child
Never ever an inch swerved even in face of grave calamities

For this is the land of the wise scholar Nakkeeran
The learned poet who held steadfastly on to truth
Even against the wrath of the mighty God Shiva himself
To ashes be burnt he chose rather than truth forsake

For this is the land of the saintly prince Siddhartha,
Who home and hearth, wife and child leaving went
Into the wilderness, all alone in search of the truth
Seeking relentlessly, till the truth itself revealed

Truth, his blade and armor, absolutely no fear had he, this hero
The baton blows, he boldly faced, not even an eyelid batting
A whole nation he inspired to stand up and her legacy reclaim.
In defense of truth laid down he his life, and immortal became.

This is the proud legacy of our ancient mother land
The legacy preserved by sages and kings of the yore
The lost legacy, our nation’s father reclaimed for us
The legacy of truth, Bharatavarsha’s gift to the world

Dark clouds now loom ominously over the entire world
Succor is desperately sought from the ancient land of light
Will she regain her lost spirit and reclaim her ancient legacy
In time to save this world engulfed in lies and deception?

This post is a part of Patriotic poetry contest by Gurukripa. If you liked these poems, please check out my other poems by clicking here.

Chrestomanci series Review

Click for picture Credit

'Diana Wynne Jones'. Name sounds quite a mouthful, eh? In spite of considering myself a connoisseur of science fiction and fantasy for both children and adults, I had not heard of her for quite some time. So when I picked up the book ‘Charmed Life’ from the local British Council Library, it was to be just another dose of any children’s fiction that I need from time to time to maintain my sanity in this insane adult world. I was so pleasantly surprised by the caliber of storytelling that I had to read the rest of her Chrestomanci series. Looking her up on Wiki, I came to know that this had not been my first introduction to her. One of my favorite anime movies ‘Howl’s moving Castle’ had been based on a book by her.

Click here to the read the rest of this post on my fantasy blog


Hunger for revenge

My beautiful life was stolen by him

His destruction my life’s only purpose

In jail spent I years most precious

The injustice of it has made me grim

For a wicked deed committed by him

Was I accused of crime cold and callous

My beautiful life was stolen by him

His destruction my life’s only purpose

A smart and merry lad, handsome and trim

No care in life, rich and industrious

A wife pretty, well read and gracious

Fortune had my life filled full to the brim

My beautiful life was stolen by him

Revenge served on a platter

This is the day for which I have waited

His fate has been handed into my hand

The hole under the wall I have sighted

This is the day for which I have waited

If the jailer were told what he wanted

to do, then would he in deep trouble land

This is the day for which I have waited

His fate has been handed into my hand

Taste of Revenge

My soul has burnt in life’s hot red furnace

In his utter ruin and destruction

Finally have I found source of solace

When the jailer disposes of his case

Like me, will he spend life in detention

My soul has burnt in life’s hot red furnace

I long to see the despair on his face

Sweet vengeance will give me satisfaction

Finally have I found source of solace

But will his plight my tales of woe erase?

Can I regain my life’s lost perfection?

My soul has burnt in life’s hot red furnace.

Forgiveness can only my woes efface

Bitter vengeance is no retribution

Finally have I found source of solace

Through suffering does one gain divine grace

This was my rite of purification

My soul has burnt in life’s hot red furnace

Finally have I found source of solace

Mask of Life

Master makers of motley masks are we

Making masks like a dainty packrat’s nest

Bits of the world woven for all to see

World is too wild for one naked to be

Hiding behind masks can one safely rest

Master makers of motley masks are we

Pick and choose as per his fancy does he

The packrat material for his nest

Bits of the world woven for all to see

The true face lies safe under lock and key

The mask goes out and faces life’s contest

Master makers of motley masks are we

  Does provide material every

 Experience to forge one’s mask the best

Bits of the world woven for all to see

One day true self will soar high and fly free

Only the best masks will stay and time test

Master makers of motley masks are we

Bits of the world woven for all to see

My first attempt at a type of poetry called Vilanelle. Here's the definition from Wikipedia. The accompanying picture belongs to Tess Kincaid of Magpie Tales. This poem has been inspired by the photo. I tried to compare the human life to that of a packrat. The same way packrat that lives a short life leaves behind middens that last for centuries, humans leave behind memories. The way packrat builds its nest from things around, we build our personalities from the experiences the world gives us. Our personalities are like our masks that we present to the world and that is what the people remember after we are gone. This post had been posted for weekly prompt for Magpie Tales Mag 74 and Jingle Poetry Week 44 Poetry Potluck- Painting Whispers.


The leaves are falling

Infatuations no more

green; blushes remain

Posted for Haiku Heights: Prompt #51 I know most people post pictures with Haikus. Even I felt such a small post looked odd on the blog and wanted to add a picture. But as they say a picture speaks more than 1000 words. What chance will my poor 17 syllables have against a picture? So decided against it.

How to write a story?

There are very few who do not love a good story. I have often wondered what it is that makes a story so fascinating. Then there are good stories and bad ones. Exploring what makes a story fascinating probably can give clues on what are the characteristics of a good story. Extending this further I was wondering if one can develop a framework to evaluate stories as well as serve as a guideline to write good stories.

To define what a story is, I would go right down to what distinguishes humans from other beings. As per me the most distinguishing features of humans are intellect and emotions, the head and the heart. So I would classify stories into two kinds – those that appeal to the head and those that appeal to the heart. Of course a hallmark of good stories is a combination of both. But I would keep these two aspects separate for simplicity of analysis.

Let us start from the top, the head. What is called intelligence is essentially an ability to solve problems. Evolution favored development of intelligence as it enabled man to solve diverse problems thrown up by nature. The brain tries to quickly gather all information available, sifts through, identifies all that is relevant and tries to come up with the most optimal solution based on the available information. As more information becomes available the solution keeps getting more refined. Copulation and eating are pleasant experiences by themselves, even when not done to serve their evolutionary purposes of procreation and providing nutrition respectively. Same is the case with problem solving. It is a pleasant experience in itself even if it has no practical purpose. This is one of the things a good story tries to exploit. It initiates the reader into a problem and slowly releases more and more information that enables him to proceed towards the solution.

A good story of the above kind is like a giant jigsaw puzzle whose size and number of pieces the reader does not know. One of the abilities of the brain is to duck bouncers. So right in the beginning, if one were to recognize that a problem is too complex, the mind decides that it would be prudent to avoid taking on the problem. In many practical cases flight makes a better strategy then fight. So it is the writer’s skill is to trick the reader’s mind into believing that the solution is just at hand. Else he will lose the reader right away. So in the very beginning the writer has to get the reader curious, which is the step of getting the reader to recognize the problem and take it on. To encourage the reader to hang on, there can be a big problem consisting of a series of smaller problems. Solving the smaller problems earlier on in the book can give the reader encouragement to keep going at the big problem. The master story teller has to release one clue after another and the readers must be left gaping for the next hoping that will solve the problem only to realize he has to wait for one more. It is a final balance. If anything is released too early, the problem is solved and reader looses interest. If too much is held back to the last, the reader may decide it is too tough mid way and give up. And finally, it should seem that the reader has arrived at the solution rather than some random solution popping up like a rabbit out of a hat at the end. Else the reader does not get the satisfaction of solving a problem.

Moving on to the heart, we seldom have control over our emotions. The world just plays with our emotions and we just have to stand by and experience them. Stories are one of the means of deliberately creating emotions and experiencing them. Stories describe situations that create a particular emotion. The mind has already associated certain emotions with certain kind of situations and so description of the situation triggers the corresponding emotion. The trick here is to make the mind believe that the reader is actually undergoing the experience that is being described. That is where the skill of the writer comes in. The descriptions have to be vivid and consistent for the reader to believe it is real. This concept is well illustrated in the movie ‘Inception’. The moment mind sees the boundaries of the world the book creates or inconsistencies, it stops believing and the story looses the ability to trigger emotions. That is why the writer has to make every effort to make the descriptions as complex and consistent as possible.

Many writers recognize the importance of keeping the settings sufficiently complex and consistent. But that is by no means sufficient in itself. From a writer’s point of view this exercise is a problem to be solved and weaving an imaginary situation that is sufficiently complex and consistent can be pleasurable. But then that is not sufficient from the reader’s point of view. The reader is looking to experience emotions. He wants to experience intense fear without exposing himself to danger. He wants to feel anger and wreck destruction and seek revenge without really hurting anyone or falling foul of law. He wants to experience the amazement of visiting a distant country or and inaccessible wonder of nature without incurring the expenses and the ardors of the journey. He wants to be part of great deeds of valor and nobility that he may not have opportunity to be part of in the real world. He wants to commit the vilest of crimes and experience sadistic pleasure without the repercussions. He wants to feel intense love and the pangs of loss for an hour and then close the book and get on with life. I can go on and on. But I guess I have made my point. Many stories, in spite of their complexity and consistency, fail to invoke these intense emotions and end up hovering at the emotional neutrality of just another day of the reader’s life. No wonder they fail in spite of the sincerest efforts from the writer.

Now it might seem I am suggesting a story to be either a problem or description of a situation that invokes a particular emotion. But most good stories are a combination of a problem and a myriad of emotions. There is no science around getting the right blend though. That is where writing becomes an art. The writer like any other artist has to rely on his feelings to judge if the blend is right. The final story has to seem real, have a problem that is neither too simple nor too complex and a set of emotions that gives the reader an overall interesting experience. There is no formula or technique for this. But this kind of analytical framework can help a writer avoid basic blunders before this stage.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces