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

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I too had a love story - Moving on

All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players. The stage had been pre decided and parts already scripted. Just the actors remained to be chosen. I was just rudely pulled out of my philosophical musings and my school boy fantasies and cast into the unfamiliar part of a lovelorn idiot. A part I was most unsuited to play! But then little choice had I in this matter. Play on I had to! Till the time the powers that be decide that divine comedy has played on for long enough and grants me the welcome release.

My friends having realized the futility of trying to dissuade me, decided to do the next best thing. Whenever they got an opportunity, they pulled Mr. Casanova away from her and tried to set up opportunities for me to spend time with her. I also soon realized that I was by no means the first one to have experienced these kinds of feelings. My friends had also been through this at some point in their lives. Swapping stories of failed romance over a bottle of Old monk and a dozen Wills Navy Cuts on a Friday evening with melancholy songs playing in the background became my only island of happiness amidst an endless sea of sorrow. For the time I spent with her also was no longer all that enjoyable. It was all just plain hollow talk with no direction. I had no clue where to proceed with this thing. I had not given a thought to marriage till now. That seemed the only logical way to put my handkerchief over her and tell all the wannabe Romeos to keep off. But in the process I would be voluntarily walking into the mouse trap instead of waiting for me parents to lure me in a few years later and run me through the Great Indian Bride Hunt. And then even if I were to decide to walk the plank, there still remained whole ordeal of proposing. How would she react to that?

The days just rolled on and the training eventually came to an end. I had mixed feelings. I was sad that I would probably not see her regularly anymore since we might be assigned to different projects. But then I was excited about getting started on the job. The excitement temporarily at least seemed to push back the swelling tide of melancholy. And I also harbored a hope that out of sight, she would also go out of my mind. But then so much for wishful thinking! One bearded joker atop a camel had decided to play bowling with the towers of USA. As the towers came crashing, so did the American economy, and with it the fortunes of Indian IT companies. So it came about that there were not enough projects for all of us and I was asked to go and sleep on the bench till they needed me.

I could not really sleep in peace for a fellow with red horns, long red ears and a longer red pointed tail came and set up his workshop in my idle head. So I had all the time in the world to keep agonizing over my situation. My hope about her going out of sight also was only wishful. She definitely seemed to have other plans. She kept running into me for some reason or the other every other day. And she also developed this annoying habit of forwarding jokes, quotations and sickly sweet mushy stuff to me. The fellow running the workshop in my idle mind somehow seemed to interpret all these gestures as her expression of affection towards me. And so I began to spend the days just waiting for her forwards and trying to find similar e-mail forwards to send to her.

I rarely ever read the contents of her forwards though. They were mostly mundane uninteresting stuff. What was more interesting to me was the mailing list. I would go over the order of names and try to analyze trends. Even though I had still not studied much statistics at that time, I had somehow independently hit upon the concept of design of experiments, a statistical technique to vary the inputs to a system and study how they impact the system output. I tried varying the order of names when I sent forwards and tried to see if that influenced the way she ordered her list. For instance I would put her name as the first in the list one time. Another time, in a mixed list of men and women, she would be the first woman on the list. Then try the same with second place. And so on. To date I have not managed to discover if it was a coincidence. But to my surprise whatever I did to her mail id always seemed to be reciprocated with my mail id. And the correlation coefficient would have been close to 95% to ignore it!

As if things were already not complicated enough, a new one arose. I began to suspect my roommate had also begun to take an unprofessional amount of interest in her. The thought began to affect my behavior towards him. I seemed to have found a hitherto undiscovered streak of vindictiveness and meanness in my character. It soon reached such a level that my other two roommates who I had already taken into confidence decided to intervene. I told them of my suspicion and asked them to help me carry out a Nacro test to confirm my suspicions. Initially they tried to argue with me on the ethicality of the whole thing. But as I had mentioned earlier, I was no mood for any form of reason. I told them all was fair in love and war. And so the plans were made. Actually it turned out much easier than we had imagined. All it took was two pegs of Old Monk to get the truth tumbling out. My suspicions had not been unfounded. My friends suggested I directly confront him the next morning instead of getting all worked up and vindictive.

My friends’ suggestion turned out to be a good one. In fact too good for my comfort! For this person was a temperamental fellow unlike my other level headed friends. He got too enthusiastic about this whole thing and decided to take upon himself the role of the white dove, the messenger of love. It was only going to be a matter of time now. He would definitely end up breaking the deadlock one way or the other. That would have of course been good in one way. But for the fact that subtelty was clearly not his forte. His methods were too direct for my liking. Some of his ideas if they went wrong I feared might get me hauled up for sexual harassment and thrown out of the company. And that was going to be too heavy a price to pay. But the next few days were somewhat better for my mind had at last found some diversion. I had to expend most of my energy to rein in this fellow and prevent him from implementing his hare brained schemes on my behalf.

Sometimes we work hours together toiling away to solve a problem. But still a solution would seem nowhere in sight. Then you decide to finally give up and sleep over it. You get up in the morning. And presto! The solution has presented itself to you in your head. At times huge issues confront you and you feel you are caught between the fire and the frying pan. You just delay the decision and go off to sleep. And when you wake up, you find the issue has resolved itself. This is called the Narasimha Rao technique named after the former Indian prime minister who had mastered the art of employing this technique to resolve all the serious issues confronting the nation. And unknowingly this was the technique that was going to be my savior.

That morning the HR representative, who suddenly seemed to have suddenly taken cognizance of my existence on the company rolls, called me to her room. She handed me out a letter. I had been assigned a project and permanently transferred to a different city. I had exactly three days to pack up my stuff and leave and report at the new office. The next few days were hectic. I had to settle down in the new place, meet new colleagues and there was whole lot of new things to learn on the project. So I did not have a moment to ponder over anything else. The forwards that continued to hit my mailbox mostly remained unread. Slowly their frequency began to dwindle and by the time I had settled down, they had totally stopped. And I had not even noticed. She had totally disappeared from my thoughts. I suddenly felt light and free. It seemed as if a huge load had been lifted off my head. The whole world lay before me. When I looked back at my erstwhile emotions, they seemed completely alien. I wondered if I had really felt those or it had just been a nightmare. Probably as Sherlock Holmes says “Work is the antidote for all sorrows.” Phew!

Then one fine day, suddenly a tinge of the old feeling hit me. I had received a mail from her after a long time. She was getting married. I wanted to attend the wedding. That had a feeling of poetic conclusion to the whole affair. But then I did not want to tempt fate. So I just drafted a congratulatory mail to her expressing my best wishes for a happy married life with a note expressing my inability to attend due to professional commitments.

Well, that was the end of this one. She was the first but by no means the last before I moved on to Bride Hunt. But let us keep that story for another day. They will eventually come up here. But not immediately, though. I want to get back to my stories and poems and maybe revive one of the other humor series that have been sleeping, roll out a couple of book reviews, maybe a couple of articles before I get back to this.

Previous Part: I too had a love story: First Blood
Related Post :  Great Indian Bride Hunt Series   

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces