Carthick's Unfairy Tales

Lately I was discussing with one of my friends and he said there are blog fairies lurking around on every blog and silently reading your posts. Or should I call them phantom readers. Apparently they read every post diligently but never make their presence felt with a comment or like on any forum where the post is shared. But then if you announce about your book publication, they may probably buy it. Who doesn't wish they had secret admirers of this sort - unobtrusive, hidden with only desire to please the object of their desire.

One sees their presence in the daily reader count but that is often dismissed as bots or someone googling straying in by mistake due to your blog post appearing in some search result and immediately beating a hasty retreat on the discovery that the blog is not what they were looking for. Apparently you can track all that if you set up Google Analytics and look at bounce rate and such. But why do that when you can live in fool's paradise looking at the daily count and believing them all to be genuine readers, admirers and fans.

So for any such blog fairy who is lurking, here goes the details of my book. It is titled 'Carthick's Unfairy Tale'. Yes - I included my name in the title. You know like Grimm's Fairy Tales. It is a retelling of seven fairy tales through some interesting perspective and bringing out hidden facets of the tales. It is a kind of book that can be read by people of all ages and each person will find something different in it. They can be read as regular stories or as satires.

So without much further ado, here goes,

This is where you get the Kindle Book in India.

If you are anywhere else you get the Kindle Book here

If you have Kindle Unlimited, this book is there in the collection absolutely free. Otherwise you pay 99 Rs, in India or $1.56 in US - similar prices in other places. If you want a paperback in India, this is where you need to go.

The book costs Rs. 175 and available at discounted price of Rs. 158.

For other countries, the paper back is available as well on Amazon itself - USA, UK, Japan and continental Europe. However not available in Canada and Australia.

You can go here to read my publishing story.

This is my other blog where I post on specific themes in a more focused manner and use as author page.

This is my Facebook author page to get all my updates.

What else. Hope to see at least some of you in one of the above mentioned places. Come on blog fairies, sprinkle your magic dust and give me joy. 

Reading round up - 30 Jan 2017

I wanted to write daily about what I read. But somehow not finding time or sometimes just don't feel like. On this blog, I am just not going to push myself. Will only write when I feel like. So here goes - after a gap of 2 weeks.

So 5 books I am reading concurrently. The first one is Fifth Discipline. I liked some of the ideas of systemic thinking and about having shared vision for the company and how companies should be about growth of employees together as persons and in the process growing the company. All this is good to read. But most existing organizations are not like that. The live for stock markets and the quarterly results. And most senior managers live for their own annual performance appraisals. And the places are competitive and everyone is judged all the time. Things are done in a hurry and most of the time is spent cutting through internal bureaucracy of the organization and client. It is all fine and dandy to read Fifth Discipline and Goal and Maverick. But reality is so different. Maybe for this reason alone I must start something that works like the organizations mentioned in these books.

Anyways moving on to the next one, Rumpole continues to delight. I am yet to decide if I consider the Rumpole stories as crime stories or more of social humor like Wodehouse. Whatever they are, they are gripping; they are fun. And Rumpole is one of the most likable characters. And all other characters who come regularly are also well etched. The last story was about an animal rights activist who wants to confess a murder he didn't do so that he could become a martyr for the movement. The current story is about a gruesome murder. We have the side story of a handsome solicitor wooing Rumpole's wife of 47 years. I can kind of guess where this going to head.

The third one is the Tamil book - Parthiban Kanavu. Progress has been slow and I have neared the 200 page mark. Still it is not even half complete. But since this has come over years in a magazine, every chapter is kind of independent and has a clear beginning and end and leaves something dangling for the user to pick up in next chapter. Hopefully reading it will improve my Tamil speed and soon I can reach closer to my English speed. In the story as such, not much is happening. Lot of descriptions are there. The princess if looking for the mystery mendicant as is the king Parthiban's step brother Marappan who betrayed his nephew to the enemy king Naraimha Pallavan. The Pallava king still however refused to trust Marappan and he is out to prove his loyalty and earn the Chola kingdom for himself as a vassal under the Pallava king.

The fourth one is Jane Eyre which I am reading as audio book. So far it has been  very interesting and not at all slow. The initial school scenes were good and then story moves to Thronfield. The character of Rochester is quite interesting. And one can relate to the conversation between Jane Eyre and Rochester. Then there is this mystery going on which is still not revealed. So the reader is on tenterhooks what is hidden at Thornfield and what is the mystery in Rochester's life. Similarly there is a thread of history around Jane Eyre's ancestry. The reunion of Jane with her foster mother and foster sisters was again satisfying. It kind of brings closure to the bitter experiences of her childhood. So its been good going so far at 1-2 chapters a day. At chapter 23. Still 15 more to go with 3 questions to be answered - what happens of the romance between Rochester and Jane, what about her inheritance and what about his mystery? The scenes are all intensely written and are good reads even without the thread of main story holding them together.

The fifth and final one is Little Women - a book I have heard of for so many years but never got around to reading. Most of the older books I read are British ones with Mark Twain being the notable exceptions. It is refreshing reading books set in America for a change. It is interesting to observer the differences between the two cultures. Trixie Belden is another American series I am pursuing. The books tell us about the life in America a few decades or even a century back. Of course I have got a bit of it from Hardy Boys, Archies and Three Investigators but those books. So far we have the five girls shown performing a play and giving up their breakfast for the poor and the two elder girls attend a party.

So that's it with my reading. This is more like pouring out my thoughts than for anyone to read. But still a publicly available record.  

The man from tomorrow

A darkly lit room – hall, verandah, bedroom whatever you may call it – it was a room. And there sat a boy. A boy all of six or seven. His eyes glued to the television set. On the TV a large metallic man with a triangular head could be seen flying. Now and then the scene changed, a boy could be seen speaking to his watch. And the robot – for that it what it was – the large metallic man – seemed to be responding to the orders being given. The little boy was watching in rapt attention. Not the boy in the TV show; the one outside. Till someone tapped him on his shoulders.

He turned around in annoyance. Annoyance turned to fear as the boy noticed a stranger – a man in his late thirties standing next to him. He was about to yell when the man put a finger to his lip and spoke to the boy in a low, gentle voice. “Quiet, Karthi boy! Quiet! I shall not harm you.”

“But who are you? What are doing in my home? I will call Amma.”

“No. You won’t. Now listen carefully to what I have to say to you.”

Something in the tone of the man made him trust him and not call out for his mother. Also, there was something familiar about the man. He wondered if he had seen the man before. But he could not recollect anyone like that.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“Don’t be surprised by what I have to say. I am your future self. From 2018?

“What? Future self? Like in the Indradhanush serial? So did I grow up and discover time machine? Did I become a famous scientist? Tell me. You are just kidding, aren’t you?”

“I am not kidding. I am your future self. But I did not invent of the time machine – I am just an experimental subject. Nothing more than a lab rat. I was just sent back in time as a test subject.”

It was the boy's parents who wanted him to be a scientist. While he liked playing the game of rockets and watch Giant Robot, Station Sigma and Indradhanush, he really wanted to be a detective. Like those boys in Ek Do Teen Char and like Karamchand. Yes. Had he managed to become one? A flicker of hope passed through this mind.

“So what are you then?”

“I am a management consultant.”

The boy’s face became blank. What the hell was that? Seeing his blank face, the older man began to explain. “We help businesses solve their problems through our in-depth analysis.” He tried to explain some of his work to the boy. The boy found himself none the wiser. It was all mumbo jumbo like that new teacher at school. On seeing his face, the man tried again, “Do you see this serial Kakaji Kahin?”

The boy gave a quizzical look. From Indradhanush to Kakaji Kahin? Where was the connection? “That story of that cunning old busybody who solved the problems of the people the colony in tricky ways?”

“Yes. That one. Now imagine a team of Kakajis. And a company of such teams, sending them out to various colonies to solve their problems. Now instead of colonies, imagine companies which these consulting companies call clients. Now that is management consulting for you.”

The boy’s face hung in disappointment. He was not going to become Karamchand or Tehkikaat or Reporter. But that obnoxious Kakaji! What a pity? Had his future self-come to warn him to avert this terrible future?

The boy looked at the man expectantly. The man said nothing. So, the boy spoke up. “Tell me whatever you have come to tell me. I am all ears.”

“I haven;t come to tell you anything. As I said this was just an experiment. I just came to see you out of curiosity since I was sent to this time. Now I am waiting for the drug in my veins to wear off and be pulled back into my time.”

“Oh. So, there is nothing that I need to do to change my future?”

“Come on, boy. Who has seen the future? How can one say what will be results of your actions?”

“But you have, haven’t you? You said you are my future self.”

“I am. One of your possible futures. But one can never say with certainty the effect of changes to past will have on the future. So all I can say is – be yourself. Live life to the fullest. Don’t bother too much about the future.”

“Well, since you are anyways here, tell me something about the future.”

“That makes sense. Let me tell you about the technological developments of our time. But where do I start?”

“Hm…Do you have robots like this giant robot in this program?”

“We do have robots. But still they have not developed to the extent of the giant robot you see on TV. But we have things like that watch that Johnny Soko has.”

So saying he pulled out a large headphone. “Do you see this device here?”

“This looks like that heaphone Johnny Soko wears sometime. Not sure of what use it is. Maybe to protect his ears while flying.”

“Yeah. It looks like that. But it can also act like that watch he has. You can give instructions on the headphone and it will get executed.”

“What kind of instructions? Who will obey? You said there is still no giant robot in your time.”

“No. No. Not a giant robot. We have something called a Google VPA. “

“What is a Google VPA now?”

“VPA stands for virtual personal assistant. You can ask it questions and it can answer questions for you. You can ask it to buy things for you. You can ask it to operate the television, fridge and other devices at home for you.”

“Ah! That sounds interesting. Not as cool as giant robot. But sounds interesting. Even giant robot can’t answer questions or buy things for you. It is sounding more like a parent. It is my mom and dad who do these things now – answering my questions, getting things for me from shops and operating all the devices at home. Next don’t tell me it will make me do my homework as well and scold and beat me if I indulge in mischief. That is not at all cool. Fighting beasties and smashing up minions of Emperor guillotine is what is cool.”

“Hmm… You do have a point. But the day is not far when you can control a robot with this thing. Just the robots need to be made. A robot is like any other electronic device and it can be controlled through commands like how Sokko controls his robots.”

“That sounds cool. But what is this head device. Isn’t it a bit cumbersome? Isn’t a watch more convenient to handle.”

“Well. This thing is a Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Headphone. It is actually something we use mostly to listen to music.”

“Ah! Like the transistor and tape recorder? Have they been made miniature and embedded into this headphone thingy?”

“No. Not really. We have something called blue tooth through which this connects to music devices and brings the music to my ears.”

“And I guess using a headphone rather than a speaker system will ensure only you listen to your music and not disturb the others?”

“Smart boy. You are right. And this headphone does the other way around too. It cancels noise and ensures you are not disturbed by noise from outside?”

“Meaning I won’t be able to hear my mother shouting at me if I put this on and start playing music.”

“Guess so. But I guess for it won’t cancel the beating she will give you if you don’t listen and respond to the scolding.”

“Some of the milder nagging I can escape. Anyways this thing sounds cool. Can I have it?”

“Well… I am not sure. You know you are not supposed to bring an artifact beyond the technological development of the time. It can cause paradoxes and disturbances in space time continuum.”

The boy was bitterly disappointed. This man was like his parents. They never gave him anything easily.

The man stood hesitating. “Maybe….” Then suddenly a different expression came on his face. A relief of sorts. “My time is over, Karthi. I am being pulled back into my time. It was nice catching up with you. Bye.”

The man began to fade and then he disappeared. For the next few days, the boy thought a lot about the visitation. He told the story to his friend Gowtham who had laughed at him and had called him off for telling fibs. He did not even dare to tell the story to his parents. With the passing days, he himself began to feel it may all have been a dream. And as days turned to months, it became a faint memory and he even forgot about the visit. He was back to his school and studies and play.

This post is part of contest organized by Indiblogger and Bose speakers. Here is the link to their site to know more about their products. #BoseQC35‬ and #BloggerContest

My Vitamin E Mantra

Everyone knows that Vitamin E has a wide range of health benefits; skin, hair, nutrition, fitness, etc. We'd like you to share the importance of Vitamin E and how it has benefited you - What sources of Vitamin E do you use and / or recommend? How have you made it part of your daily routine?

Tell us via blogs or vlogs, your pick. Participate now and get a chance to win exciting prizes.

Now this is what we need to write on to win exciting prizes. Now who doesn't like exciting prizes. So here I go. So let's approach this logically and take a look at what the prompt says. The first line says - "Everyone knows that Vitamin E has a wide range of health benefits; skin, hair, nutrition, fitness, etc. " and the second says "We'd like you to share the importance of Vitamin E". Not this begs the question if everyone already knows why share? That is actually the paradox of the workings of the human mind. They like to hear more and more of what they already know and less and less of what they do not. Take my own dear son for instance. He has a set of questions to which I give him a set of answers. We have done this routine over a hundred times. But she still seems to love it. He asks me the question again and again. And I give the same answer over and over and that throws him into paroxysms of  delight. I guess people retain this basic characteristic to their adult days and this manifests in more subtle ways.

Anyways we are digressing and let us get back to Vitamim E. Apparently it helps skin, hair, nutrition, fitness, etc Since I so happen to not belong to the everybody who ostensibly knew the benefits of this Vitamin E, I did a google search on what this etc. may be. Usually when you are a consultant or a market researcher it is the category etc. or others that has most of the critical information. And indeed it was so - Cholesterol control, Improved Vision, delay onset of Alzheimer's disease, reduce cancer risks were some of the answers that came up. Now all this is cool, isn't it? When Vitamin E can do all this who gives a damn about hair and skin. But again that reflects my poor understanding of the ways of the world. Hair and skin are apparently the most important aspects of human life. As per an unnamed study half the world's wealth is spend on researching how to improve human hair and skin. Whole industries flourish and whole bunch of people have made their lives around this key human theme of hair and skin. It is called by the collective name of beauty. That sound nice, doesn't it. Hairy and skinny doesn't seem to have the right ring to it.  Though everyone wants nice hair and skin, no one wants to be hairy and skinny. Beauty - that is the name of the game. 

So now having established importance of beauty let's get on with where all we get this thingy. Again uncle Google to the rescue - Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Hazel Nuts, Wheat germ, mango, avocado, butternut squash, broccoli, Spinach, Kiwi and Tomato. That's a whole lot of stuff, eh? Lets now see one by one which I eat and which I don't. Sunflower seeds - that is stuff for birds. But yes, nice with corn flakes. But not part of daily fare. Almonds - yes. Hazel Nuts - don't get the stuff our here in India except those imported ones and stuff. Wheat Germ - no clue. Wheat I have , germ I would rather not. Mango - yes in summer season though it is becoming unaffordable for mango people. Avocado, butternut squash, broccoli, kiwis - again all foreign stuff. Spinach and tomato - of course very much part of the cuisine. So the conclusion being I do get my quota of Vitamin E. Only the quantum we need to see. How much we need and how much we get. I guess it is not enough. Ad that is why we need to have  Evion Supplements.

Can imagine having a tin of  #Evion in my pocket and going about singing.

I'm Popeye the sailor man
I'm Popeye the sailor man
I'm strong to the fin-ich
Cause I eats me spin-ach
I'm Popeye the sailor man.

Just instead of spinach, this #Evion thingy. Spinach kind of doesn't have shelf life while this has I guess. So there goes the super formula to become world class beauty if a female or Popeye the sailor man if male.Or vice versa before social justice warriors jump at me for sexism. I am absolutely fine with beautiful men and strong women as well. So Vitamin- E, it is the the key to everything. Though frankly speaking I prefer Vitamin-M which is why I write posts like this and look longingly at the prizes.

Now the call to action. Here's the link to evion and here's the link to Popeye

Reading Reflections (Jan 8, 2018)

So have managed to get to 90 pages on Parthiban Kanavu. The author did not show us the battle and directly took us to its aftermath. He creates a dramatic effect describing corpses and blood. There is a Shaivite stage looking around in the corpses and at the same time an elephant is looking around - the elephant of Parthiban. The elephant's grief wrings the heart  of the reader and manages to get the reader's full sympathy for Parthiban. The sage finds Parthiban and get his final words on his deathbed. He promises to do his best to see to it that Pathiban's dream of Vikraman becoming an independent Chola king. Before he dies the sage removes his wig and fake beard to the dying Parthiban. Paarthiban is surprised to learn his identity. But the same is not revealed to the readers.

Then we are taken 6 years into the future and we are shown a  horse rider visit a temple and change to his ascetic disguise and visit the boatman Ponnan's house. It becomes clear he is on very good terms with young Price Vikraman and his mother. Vikraman informs the king that he is all ready to lead a rebellion to raise the Chola flag again. The sage asks him who is helping him and he says his uncle Marappa Bhoopathy, who had pretended to be unwell and avoided Parthiban's disastrous battle. He claims his uncle has reformed and is raising an army for him.

We are then taken to a different scene where king Narasimha Varman is visiting Mahabalipuram with his daughter Kundavi. We learn the place is named after Narasimha Varman. Mamalla is the name given to Narasimha varman because he defeated the best wrestlers. We are told all this through conversations with father and daughter. We also get to know king's eldest son is on a campaign to Sri Lanka. King says it was always his unfulfilled desire to carry out sea campaigns and so he has happy to send his son on the same. Only his daughter he could no send she being a woman and his last son had no interest in the same. We have lively conversation between father and daughter during which lot of interesting information is revealed. 

The chapter ends with King receiving message about Vikraman's rebellion and king being aware of it without even reading the message. 

Reading Reflections (Jan 7, 2018)

Saturdays usually turn out to be a day of low reading for me. Only read a few pages of Parthiban Kanavu over the 2 days - Friday and Saturday. Parthiban Kanavu so far moves reasonably fast giving us background through show rather than tell. We are shown the queen and how the marriage took place, her tears over her married life that is going to come to an end. Then we the king taking the prince to the painting hall. Here author launches into description mode describing the various paintings from Indian mythology present in the hall. Then they move into a special hall where Parthiban keeps his paintings hidden. A suspense is built on what they may be a then revealed. It was a nice way of showing the reader the titular Parthiban's dream. Instead of just describing his dream, the character has drawn them as paintings and slowly tells his son about his dream and how at this moment he cannot even show these to anyone. It brings out the emotions of the king who chaffs at being a minor king after the Cholas had reigned over the entire region at one time. He is hoping to see his son take the kingdom back to its days of glory. A powerful army with the king's elephant at its head but the seat on top of the elephant empty is quite powerful.

In the conversation, we also come to know not just Parthiban, but even their enemy Pallava kings were into art and craft. He manages to give lot of information.

The other book 'Fifth Discipline', there author starts discussing the various pitfalls comparing human life and the faults in an organization. I like this kind of comparison between humans and organizations.

Reading Reflections (Jan 5, 2018)

Completed one more story from the Rumpole collection - 'Summer of Discontent'. Cool story. It is interesting how Mortimer picks up a socio-political issue and had it play around in the professional and family circles of Rumpole, then a case related to it. Here it is about unionization. Everyone is unionizing. There is talk of professionalizing law and manage everyone by productivity etc. and allowing solicitors to practice as a judges. Not being fully acquainted with the British legal system, I was not clear of the differences between barristers and solicitors. I looked it up. Apparently solicitors draw wills etc. while barristers fight cases. This difference apparently is a British thing and does not exist in India. Coming back, in the backdrop of this case, Rumpole has to fight a case where an union member has been accused of murdering an engine driver who did not join in on the strike. The story is a humorous account of how Rumpole bails him out by working the current social condition to his favor. Of course he has a lucky break that gives him crucial information. But still the story is not just the ending but the whole journey which was immensely enjoyable.

Still continuing with Parthiban Kanavu. There was a mention of history of flags. How the Pallava flag used to be ox but after defeating the Chalukya and bringing down their boar flag, Narasimha Varman changes it to lion. We get to know further about the history between Mahendra Varman and Partbhan Cholan. Both had apparently wooed the same lady, a scion of a small Chera King. But she had opted to marry her first suitor the Chola king. And the Pallavas had gracefully relinquished their claim. In small ways, he builds the antagonist as a positive character. Someone who was brave and defeated the large enemy. Someone who is gracious. Only crime of his being ignoring Parthiba Chola's letter and slighting him. Also it is mentioned Narasimha Varman ended up marrying daughter of a small Pandya king. So we have all 5 clans coming in the story - Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas. So kind of gives a feel of the Indian history. So far story has been fast moving and we have learnt a lot in the first 40 pages.

Also continuing the Fifth Discipline. Here after mentioning how structure more often cause failures to occur then the author goes on to give examples of how every action can go wrong. One can offer freebies in a town to improve standard of living. But people from other towns will rush in to take the freebies making poverty level continue to remain the same. He says often solving problems will involve moving it from one area to another unless it is a systemic fix. Piece meal fixes always move problems from one area to another area. He says people often work hard trying to push through the wrong solution. So he advocates broader reflections of overall reflections of any move.

The fourth book being read Death on the Orient has moved a bit more with Poirot meeting a colleague from Belgium and they discussing an Americian gentleman whose body movement seems to indicate a viscous temperament.    

Reading Reflections (Jan 4, 2018)

So made some slow and steady progress with Parthiban Kanavu. Through the conversation between Valli and her grandfather, we get to know of the history between the Pallava King and the Chola King. The Pallavas had apparently established themselves as the monarchs over the the entire land and the king Mahendra Pallava went into a siege in his capital Kanchipuram whens sacked by King Pulakesi of Chalukya kingdom, giving  a free run to Pulakesi's armies to attack the Chola kingdom. Luckily Pulakesi could not conquer as he in turn faced threat from the north but before he left, he caused lot of destruction within Chola territory. So Chola people were miffed with the Pallava monarchs.

Then Mahendra's son Narasimha took over - he was a more enterprising monarch who decided to sack Vatapi, the kingdom of Chalukyas. Partiban the king of the Cholas had offered aid in this venture in exchange for tribute being removed and Cholas being treated as an ally kingdom rather than a tributary kingdom. But on received no response, Pariban feels affronted and stops paying tribute. When the Pallava king returns after defeating Chalukyas by himself over 3 years and demand tribute, the Chola king refuses and declares war. It is an unequal war with sure defeat looming. But then it is a matter of pride for the king and his people. They don't want to be a client kingdom living as secondary citizens in the Pallava empire. So the king and his people are all ready to go to war and die fighting instead of dishonor.  It is interesting to see what people valued in those times and good to know the history of relations between Cholas, Pallavas, Pandyas and the Chalukyas.

We also get introduced to Marappa Bhupathi, the disloyal half brother of the king, who is miffed that he is not the heir to the throne instead of the king's son. He is against this destructive war for sake of honor. He is a thorough opportunist who has eyes on Valli who is listening to these stories from her grandfather.

It is interesting how Kalki introduces the background to us through the eyes of secondary characters before taking us to the main battlefield. So far it has been a fast read and things have been moving. Even the descriptions have not been tedious as they were loaded with adulation. I think that is the thing about descriptions. If you put emotions into them, they come alive. If not they are dead and boring. It is not about the detail but the emotion. 

Made slight progress with Fifth Discipline. It talks of how people don't think systemically and information does not flow correctly between different areas. It also says how structures influence decisions more than individuals. Somehow in line with Tolstoy's idea of flow of history. He gives example of how Russia got entangled in war in small Balkan states and US got entangled in war in Vietnam not as deliberate well thought out plan but as a series of reactions one after the other due to the overall structure. Reminded me of the book 'Tactics of Mistake' where the protagonist leads the antagonist into a war of his choosing by setting up one skirmish after another and escalating slowly till suddenly the antagonist is caught in a big war which he would have been glad not to fight. This again relates to the old idea of the frog in water being boiled he gives. The frog is initially quite comfortable in the water and continues to be as temperature begins to raise. When it reaches killing level, it is too late.  

Reading Reflections (Jan 3, 2018)

Current I am reading Rumpole a La Carte and murder on the Orient Express.  The story in the Rumpole book has Rumpole reflecting on the rude French Irish cook while Orient express has Poirot reflecting on a rude Englishman, who does not consider foreigners worthy society.

Most Agatha Chritie stories start with the murder scene. In this one, they are traveling on the train and so far nothing has happened as yet. We just have Poirot travelling with the Englishman and Englishwoman for company.

The Rumpole book of course is a complete laughing riot with Rumpole being dragged to a fine dining restaurant by his wife where they are offered a treat by one of her high and mighty cousins. Rumpole has fun asking for mash and potato spuds, earning the ire of the chef. Though I do not know what is potato spuds, kidney and cabbage taste like against fine wafer of duck meat, I could get the general idea. I do not know if Michelin 2 and 3 star restaurants exist in India and they would be affordable. But I have at least tasted a few gourmet dishes - one place I remember is Masala Library. They had a 7 or 8 course meal with all fancy dishes - foreign delicacies made with Indian vegetarian items - a culinary Jugalbandi of sorts.

The Chef's tirade is upset by the appearance of a mouse at one of the customer's table and the mouse becomes the case in the story. The chef approaches Rumplole to get him off the case health department slaps on him. While it may seem trivial compared to murder mysteries, the heady mix of humor and deduction make it a highly engaging read. I feel the deduction process more interesting that the magnitude of crime. And the humor keeps you laughing all the way to the end. And there is some kind of warmth to these stories. The same characters appear over and over in the stories and you begin to get used to them after a while. The friendly and sometimes unfriendly banter between the characters  makes you feel very much a home. You know like those Enid Blyton school stories. You know if you walk into a random Malory Towers books, you will run into Alicia, Mary Lou. Gwendoline, Sally, Irene, Belinda etc. In some stories they may be of importance. In others they are just side characters. Similarly if you step into a random Rumpole story,  you will have 'the one who must be obeyed', 'the Portia of the Chamber', good old Uncle Tom who visits the chambers to play Golf than to take up cases, Erskine Brown with his philandering ways, Soapy Sam Ballard with his overbearing ways, the radically left liberal Liz Probert etc. The characters just grow over you from story to story. And often incidents from earlier stories are referred to in later stories giving a feeling of continuity.

In addition to these 2 books, also making my headway with the Tamil Book Parthiban Kanavu. One thing I find here is even the simplest of events are described. I wonder if it is the way of Tamil stories or the way narration used to be in ancient times. You know current writing manuals talk about show and tell, avoiding redundancy etc. This book describes all trivial things such as she walked, she laughed etc. I wonder if modern day Tamil authors write like this or have they also adapted to the newer style like their English counterparts. But for a new person trying to learn the language, redundancy helps so that even if one misses something, one can continue to follow the story. So far, all that has happened is the Chola King is on his way to fight a battle with the Pallava Emperor to avoid paying him tribute and all the public is devoutly loyal to him and are all ready to fight cheek by jowl with their king. We have the boatman wanting to join the army but King tells him to stay back because he has to teach his son to swim is the King falls in battle. The boatman's wife's grandfather is a blacksmith and all excited about fashioning weapons. These scenes are good in the sense that they show the reader the public sentiment.

Reading Reflections (2 Jan 2018)

I picked up a book titled Tsarevich Ivan and the Grey Wolf. This was another version of the Fire Bird story, one by Irina Zheleznova, a bit longer and more interesting one. Here we have Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless making an appearance. The story follows the same path till the journey to retrieve the horse with the golden mane. Only the descriptions are richer. After that, instead of the wolf getting Yelena the fair for Ivan, he has to rescue her from Koschei. And to do that he has to get hold of sword from two goblins, seek Baba Yaga to find out how Koshei can be killed, then retrieve Koshei’s life from its hiding place – opening an iron door to the hollow inside an oak tree, retrieving a chest, a hare from inside it, a duck from inside the hare, an egg inside the duck. Here he gets help from a pike to travel to an island where the oak tree is located and in retrieving the egg. But he kills the hare himself with his sword and the duck with an arrow. The ending is same with his brothers killing him and the wolf reviving him the dead water and live water.

The second story I read was titled Red Hill by Vitaly Bianki. It is a simple story of two sparrows seeking a place to nest. The male sparrow is quarrelsome and gets into trouble trying to snatch a hole in a garden belonging to another sparrow. It gets expelled from the garden and needs to move to red hill. There, while it continues to be quarrelsome with the other birds, that is not the main source of trouble. The main antagonist happens to be a ginger cat, that manages to eat away all its eggs. The birds try to escape to the other side of the river but the cat reaches there as well but is attacked by the male bird which manages to inflict enough injuries upon it to rescue its family. A simple take but with a strong conflict that completely engages the reader.

Then I started a third book, one I had as a childhood titled Alice by Yulia Drunina. It is the tale of woman and her daughter rescuing a fox and taking it home.

The other book I made progress with was the Tamil book Parthiban Kanavu. Managed to get through 17 pages. The story focuses on a boatman and his wife who are dear to the Chola king. We get to know that the Chola king has refused to pay tribute to the Pallava monarch and is going to war with him. The book is rich with descriptions. The author is clearly in love with every aspect of the Chola kingdom. Starting with the banks of Kaveri to the road infrastructure in the Chola kingdom and the scenery is described in loving detail rick with metaphor. That is what makes the descriptions interesting – they are not dull detail but one can feel the author’s reverence and excitement through those words.

Fifth Discipline was yet another book I started in the New Year 2018. So far, it’s been interesting. It talks about individuals’ desire to learn rather than just fit a role and to develop system thinking beyond their specific role. It quotes examples from history such as the Catholic papacy and European monarchies where decisions were taken individualistically without foresight leading to eventual collapse of the system.  It also quotes an example of how most businesses die within 40 years due to the same reason. The organizations turn into bureaucracies which lose the vitality with employees indulging in politics to save themselves rather than working together to achieve a common vision. The book talks of this culture of arbitrary decision making which is either a compromise between various individuals or mandate from the top. The author laments the lack of dialog to challenge assumptions and really get to the core of the issues.

While Built to Last and Good to Great was about why organizations succeed, this book addresses the other side of the coin – why organizations fail. One of the interesting things that came up was the eagerness to jump on the bandwagon of bubbles rather than investing in lasting businesses and staying put.

The book starts with an interesting example of a beer game with three sets of entities – the retailer, the wholesaler and the manufacturer. An increase in demand takes time to be communicated from retailer to wholesaler and to manufacturer. While there is only doubling of demand, there is lag between information reaching manufacturer and in this period, there seems like market has very high demand and retailer keeps placing orders with wholesaler and wholesaler with manufacturer to meet backlog. By the time the manufacturer get his act together, it seems as if there is much more demand than there actually is. So, manufacturer increases capacity much more than required and the wholesaler and retailer end up stoking much more. Suddenly there is too much supply and not enough demand.  AN interesting simulation to show how lack of communication can result in disaster. 

Reading Reflections (1 Jan 2018)

The Russian fairy tales book had 2 more tales - Emelya and the Pike and Valisila the beautiful. Emelya is know as Emelya the fool but he acquires almost God like powers just for the mere act of refraining from killing a pike. He has been given words if he repeats, anything can happen. Wood gets cut on his own, his sledge moves all by itself through town, the princess falls in love with him. The only source of conflict is his own will. He is too lazy even to use the magic words and get things done. Someone has to push him for that to happen. But that is about it. Story could have been more interesting if he had been more quirky to the extreme.

The other story Valisila the beautiful again has an all powerful benefactor - Valisila's doll. The doll is given to her by her mother and the doll helps her with solution for every problem. This is more interesting because the doll can't move around. It can only give ideas. Only Valisila actually has to do it. Here the main antagonist is Baba Yaga, the witch. As I mentioned earlier, she appears as protagonist in some stories and antagonist in others. Here she is the antagonist. Valisila is sent to her to obtain light and she tries to give her impossible tasks and tries to use her failure at these tasks as a pretext to eat her up. But she manages to complete the tasks thanks to the help from her doll.

The descriptions of Baba Yaga's house is interesting. House is made of human bones as is the gate. The gate only opens at a word from her. The skulls glow and give light.The house is guarded by a tree that lashes out, a cat that scratches and a dog that bites. Three horsemen ride into her house - a white horseman of the dawn, a red horseman of the noon and black horseman of the night. The imagery is interesting. 

The tasks are typical - separation of grains. And solution is also typical - help from birds and mice. The escape is more interesting. She manages to bribe the brown maiden who works with Baba Yaga and her 3 guards and the gate as well. The 5 of them are not treated well by Baba Yaga and so they let the girl escape in return for gifts from her. This is workable into a logical solution to her problems. So overall I find this to be  a story with potential. The story continues after her stepmother and stepsisters are burned by the skull she brings home from Baba Yaga's house for light. She is able to make a garment out of flax, weaving flax into golden threads. A Tsarevich gets impressed and married her. She then lives happily ever after with her father, doll and an old woman who cooks and cleans for her. This seems totally unrelated to main tale. But all these elements together are workable into a tale.

The other story I am starting for year end is Partibhan Kanavu going into new year. I have always wanted to read Tamil books  but did not for 2 years. So starting 2018 with a Tamil book. Only done first page so far. It is full of metaphorical description of Kaveri river and its banks comparing it to diamonds and precious stones etc,. waxing eloquent over a page. This is an interesting manner of narrative and worth exploring.

A third book is Baby Read Aloud - Basics. 2 years too late as it is for babies 0-2 years. But need to start somewhere to get into this genre of child development - an areas I have not focused on enough. I have clearly realized a baby is not just another person and the same principles of dealing with family and friends don't apply to babies. This book starts off extolling the benefits of reading to babies. I wonder if it is too late now. Hope as we move on the book has more useful information that can be used at this point.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces