Books by Jules Verne

People find being in zero gravity an exhilarating experience. No wonder so many people go for bungee jumping and the less adventurous to amusement park rides. It is a feeling of absolute freedom as well as a scary feeling. There is a similar zero gravity feeling in life also. Like how we spend most of our physical life bound to the ground by the physical force of gravity, our social life is spent bound by the social forces that bind us to organizations and social structures. At the age of four it starts – a school, then college, then a workplace. Your very identity is defined by these organizations that you feel an identity crisis when you are finally rid of these organization at the time of your retirement. Usually one has a spell of excitement when one is out of one such organization and not yet moved on to the next. I had such an experience when I had finished my schooling and yet to join college. I had finished my board exams and all my college entrance exams. Still two months remained for results. Meantime I was unattached and totally free. During that time I would head for the local library after lunch and be there till dinner time. It was during this time that I happened to read my first science fiction – ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ by Jules Verne.

You can read the rest of this article here on my blog dedicated to science fiction

Rainbow's End

I heard there were large pots of gold

At the end of every rainbow

I went searching for the gold pots

Not once stopping to stand and stare

At the lovely hues of rain’s bow

I cared not for red or orange

Nor for yellow nor green nor blue

The violet and indigo

I just ignored and  let them go

Golden dreams filled my entire mind

Spring just sprung unnoticed and waned

Summer sun’s glow could hardly match

The glitter and glory of gold

Autumn’s leaves did I behind leave

The winter of my life has come

The pot of gold has now been found

But it can’t buy back those lost hues

Seasons come just but only once

In one’s lifetime and go away

What ‘s lost has been lost forever

Journeys end in destinations

Destinations never bring back

All the missed joys of the journey

The Solitary Buffalo on the Dutch Plain

It was raining heavily. My first view of the ancient houses in a quaint little village in Netherlands was through the window of the tram, all wet and hazy with rain drops. That trip was a momentous one in many ways. It was my one of my first trips to a foreign location. It was the first time I tried my hand at photography. It was the first time I got to see a real live red light area with windows lined along the street and women beckoning the passersby with lewd gestures from within. And most of all it was the first time the thought of writing ever entered my head.

I had 3 companions with me on the trip, a couple and another stag like me. The couple often wanted time off by themselves as all couples always want. That left me and this other fellow to have lengthy discussion on various topics, very often venturing into philosophy and the abstract. Listening to me talk on various issues, he suddenly came up with the suggestion that I should try a hand at writing. I had never thought of it till then. He said he dreamed of being a film producer and he has a friend who dreams of being a film director. So he said why not I don the hat of the script writer and the three of us make a film together. I am the kind of guy who gets easily excited by ideas without going deep into the feasibility aspect. So I began to seriously give a thought to what I wanted to write.

Obviously it had to be a novel. I like reading novels best. What would the theme be? I remembered a discussion with another friend a year back, another wild flight of fantasy. That day he had read about a person who had travelled around the world hitch hiking and doing odd jobs on the way without any initial capital to start with. We had speculated how it would be if we could do something like that. We could run away from home, take a train to Cochin. Find jobs on a ship that will pay for your passage to Jeddah. From Jeddah, enter Yemen and then Turkey and then get into continental Europe. Keep moving from place to place, earning your keep along the way and complete a trip around the world. Of course we never really attempted that. But that seemed like an interesting theme for a story. Three software engineers bored with their job decide to break out of the vicious loop and run away on a world tour. The adventures they can have on the way, the interesting lands they see, the interesting people. And the conversations they have. That would give a lot of room for philosophy, humor and random musings. Some kind of a three men in a boat!

The next issue was what would be the title. After all, title is an important part of a story, eh? It had to be appealing and jazzy. It had to have some philosophical significance. And it should be inspired, not something boring like 'Robot'. Probably I should have named it '3 Idiots'. If I had done that I could have at least demanded money from Raju Hirani for stealing the title of my story. But then I looked around for inspiration. I could see a huge green field with an elevated region in the middle. Right at the middle of the elevation stood a lone bovine grazing calmly. I could not make out what kind of a bovine exactly at that distance though. I raked my brain for the title and Presto! Here was the title ‘The solitary Buffalo on the Dutch Plain

The story was ready. The title was ready. Now the two had to be connected. I tried to think what all the title could possibly mean. I had wanted to use the word solitary because I had read the poem ‘The Solitary Reaper’ by William Wordsworth and wanted my title to sound like that. Maybe the theme of the poem could give me some clues. I could write about the buffalo grazing and mooing by herself and her mooing filling the plain with its profound sound. I chose buffalo rather than cow or bull as buffalos catch attention much more easily. Monkey, donkey, buffalo and pig are four animals that hold your fascination from childhood that make you laugh by their very mention. Had to figure out though how the buffalo would fit in with the story I had in mind though. Maybe I could assign some metaphoric significance to the buffalo. I could use the buffalo to portray the change in mental state of the protagonist. The buffalo could probably be elevated to a pedestal like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. All buffalos were wallowing in their own dung while one buffalo chose to graze at the top of the plain. Bring in an analogy to all software engineers wallowing in their own code while one software engineer decided to break free and take on life in his own terms. Maybe to make it realistic, I could portray the buffalo appearing in one of the protagonist’s dreams and sharing words of wisdom. The possibilities were endless.

By the time the trip ended the buffalo had captured my imagination. I was ready to even drop the theme but not the title. But how much ever I tried the story would never take off. I got to write my first piece only 4 years later and my first story 5 years later. But neither of them had any Dutch or Buffalo connection. Today 6 years have passed. The solitary buffalo on the Dutch plain still waits patiently for me to tell her tale. Maybe if one were to peer deep into the picture, one could make out her silhouette far away in the plains, looking at you with a melancholy expression. I still have not found her story but at least I can write a post dedicated to my muse- the one who sowed the first thoughts of writing into my head.

This post is not a story, not a poem, not an article. Then what is this? That is probably as much a mystery as what a buffalo was doing alone on the top of Dutch plain. But let is remain a mystery safe from our dear politicians. Else we will have one politician demanding that we send out MIG-29s to Netherlands to bring the buffalo home. Another would come up with a 1000 Crore scheme for providing fodder to the buffalo. A third would protest against the injustice of considering only cows holy. A fourth would try to get the Dutch plain alloted to his son and a fifth would be interested to know if Netherlands provides a safe tax haven. But then let politicians 'lie'. Let us conclude with a tribute to the ‘Solitary Buffalo on the Dutch Plain.”

Related Post: First Plunge into Chilly Waters


Image - Window Rain Drops by Eric Alder
Courtesy - via


I will stay put at my home safe and sound
I won’t step out into world big and bad
I have a fear of light shining bright
Only shadows can hide and keep me safe

I don’t want to make mistakes and then pay
I know I have no skills, nor wit, nor charm
I doubt if I can do anything right
Only way not to fail is not to try

Caterpillars crawling on the surface
Spin cocoons of doubt and fear
And stay hidden from the eyes of the world
Sleeping safely inside self made coffins

Similar Post: Fool 

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces