Sunday, March 30, 2008
The discussion/debate started with V. S. Naipaul. As you all know, he is a Nobel laureate for literature. I highly admire his writing skills and have read many of his works. The point of discussion was his confessions in his biography The World Is What It Is, about abusing his wife. He says "I think that consumed her. I think she had all the relapses and everything after that. She suffered. It could be said that I killed her. It could be said. I feel a little bit that way".
His wife Patricia, was suffering from cancer. Naipaul confesses of inflicting mental cruelty on her. Naipaul blatantly boasted of extra-marital affairs and visiting prostitutes in one of his interviews and this humiliation and stress caused severe downfall of Patricia's health.
The question is, 'Is it moral to continue to admire the author once you know how horrible his personal life is?'
I took the stand of placing art higher than an individual. I argued that I would still continue to read his work and admire him because of his literary works and not personal life.
But the crimes that he has committed towards an innocent, suffering woman are really despicable. I wish he were as good a person as a writer.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I have not written many travelogues. But out of nowhere came the desire to write a few lines about my experience in Kolkata. Some places are like magnets. They compel you to make visits again and again. Kolkata visit has had similar effects on me. I have fallen in love with that place in just one visit. Quite frankly I don't know the reason. It's certainly not the most beautiful place I have visited. Neither do I have any relations there. Yet the strong emotional attachment that I feel towards it and my desire to visit it again is indeed intriguing.
The exact dates that I visited Kolkata fail my memory. I think it was about 5-6 years ago. I remember taking the books along for studies. I still regret spending hours inside my hotel room preparing for the exams and missing the beauty of that foreign land. My sister was to deliver her classical-vocal performance at a contest (which she eventually won) there at Ramkrishna Mission, Kolkata and that was what prompted the visit.
Kolkata is a place full of extremes. It has an aura of its own. It does not have modernity of Mumbai but has its own rich cultural heritage. People are busy just like any other metro city but they have time to appreciate beauty of art and music. I am amazed by the number of artists and musicians come out of this region. It certainly runs in their blood. Despite being a metro city, it does not have the arrogance like Delhi (No offense intended towards Delhites). You can feel the sweetness in nature of people you meet.
My visit coincided with Doorga Pooja, known as just 'Pooja'. It is the biggest festival in Bengal and Kolkata was adorned like a bride for the occasion. All the streets were decorated with lighting and sweet Bengali music and the fragrance of sweets filled the air. The atmosphere was electrifying around us.
I found the city lazy. I am not sure if it was a norm or just an exception but I saw many shops and offices, even private closing strictly at 5 in the evening. The areas I visited had a large population of blue collar workers and thus the road-side eating joints were crowded for the evening tea and supper. You could buy a meal in Rs. 4 (10 cents). At the other end of the city, in areas like Esplanade and Park street, you could see the young upper-middle class people eating in McDonald and shopping in one of the most swanky shopping malls.
The roads are eternally jammed and they look like a sea full of yellow-top taxis. As long as your sight can reach , you can see nothing on the roads but taxis. The traffic jams are so bad in some areas that I remember getting out of taxi in the middle of the road and start walking.
This was the first time I experienced Metro rail (The second time being in NY last summer). I was really impressed by the efficiency with which the metro runs. Also, the underground stations are quite clean and modernized. There are large, fascinating murals on the walls of these stations like those of Tagore at the station named 'Rabindra Sadan'. It is an amazing view while riding when the train emerges from underground to the street level near the Dum-dum airport station. Looks like a gladiator entering the arena!
There are a lot of Victorian style buildings with red bricks. They stand as the reminder of colonialism and Raj. Along the similar lines, I must add that 'Babu' culture (Attitude of bureaucrats as if they are 'the higher living beings') is still prevalent here. You see loads of chauffeur driven Ambessadors on roads. With the 'Sahib' sitting in the back seat.
Other most vivid memories include our visit to Bellur Math. This is an ashram built by Swami Vivekanand, on the banks of the sacred Ganga. The peaceful environment has amazingly refreshing effects on mind. You feel ethereal sacredness floating around you. Eternal bliss. A momentary feeling of Nirvana.
The last memories of Kolkata I have is seeing waves of peasants and workers heading to the railway station. The driver told us that all these people live in nearby rural areas like Howra and they take trains to arrive in Kolkata to work. They start their day at 5 in the morning and when we saw them returning, it was already 8.30 at night.
I know there was no significantly unique experience in this visit. It looked just like another one week trip to an unknown place. But yet it has had lasting impression on my mind. I have fallen in love with that place. After that visit, I have read numerous Bengali authors. Whenever I see a book set in Bengal, I instantly buy it. This includes books by Tagore, Sankar, Amitav Ghosh and so on.
Mysterious, spellbinding, simple and lovely. I would summarize my impression of Kolkata with these four words.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Real characters in history woven in the net of a mysterious fictional plot. That is Anatomy of Deception. Part history, part fiction, this book is an absolute delight to read. This was the first book of its kind I have read.
The book is set in late 19th century in the Medical School, Philadelphia. The characters in the book include legendary doctors like Dr. William Halstead and Dr. William Osler. Their personalities have been depicted just as they were. But the circumstances surrounding them in the novel are fictional. The story revolves around the murders of a doctor and a young girl from an affluent family of Philadelphia. A young successful doctor, Dr. Carrol takes it up to him to solve the mystery of these two deaths and finds himself caught in the net of deception. Should he trust his own colleagues? Should he trust 'The Professor' who has been his guiding light in his professional as well as personal life?
The aura created resembles that present in Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie novels. The places include dark alleys, grave yards, morgue rooms of hospitals, palatial homes and so on. Characters include some legendary doctors, a ruffian immoral medical student, a diligent and committed medical professional, blue blood families of America at that time, some tough-nut mafia dons and so on. A perfect set up for a suspense thriller. Anatomy of Deception has it all.
But what stands out in Lawrence Goldstein's novel is seamlessly woven facts about the early history of medicine in America. Details about various inventions and discoveries, made by accident or otherwise have been integrated as part of the novel. Those related to medical profession or study will indeed find it very informative. And yes, these details are not fiction. They indeed happened the way it has been portrayed.
The novel is written as first person narrative. So those of you who don't prefer to read this kind of style might find it as a put-off. But I assure you, the writing style is indeed flawless. It's gripping and entertaining. A perfect material to arouse your curiosity about history of medical profession in America. If you haven't tried this genre, I would strongly advise you to go to your nearest book store (The nearest being the computer you are reading this blog on - Amazon ) and grab a copy of it. Enjoy.
Links to some characters in the book:
Dr. Osler: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Osler
Dr. Halstead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stewart_Halsted
[P.S. Thanks a ton Niki, for such a wonderful gift]
[Image source: http://forum.connpost.com/joe/images/anatomy.gif]
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Flight was about to take off. Lucy was quietly playing with her Penguin toy that I bought her at the airport. I tightened her seat-belt. She looked up suddenly and said, 'Daddy, when will we see Mommy?'.
'Mommy will be at Phoenix airport, sweetheart. You are going to see her as soon as we land', I assured her. She gave a faint smile and got herself engaged in playing with her Penguin again.
'Daddy, when will I see you again?', she asked again looking up. My heart sank at the question. How was I going to explain to her that she was not going to see her parents together ever? 'You will come to see me during the summer, sweety' and I tried to look away, trying to escape the questions in her eyes. She held my hand tight and asked, 'Why?. Why will you not be with me and Mommy in Phoenix?'.
'Because Daddy and Mommy are not going to live together, honey. But you as soon as the summer arrives, you will come to Daddy and we will spend time together. Daddy will take you to the park and you can play on the slides and swings. Daddy will bring you ice cream and chocolates. But first you must be a good girl and spend time with your Mommy.', I said with a heavy heart, trying hard to keep my gaze into her uncertain eyes.
'Will Mommy come with me to see you then?'
'No sweetheart, Mommy will not see Daddy. You will come alone. Daddy and Mommy will not meet each other.'
'But why Daddy? Why?'
And a tear rolled down her left cheek. It has always been like this with her. It is always the left eye which gives way to her tears first. And she started sobbing then. Pressing her head against my chest and curling her little arms around me. I did not know how to comfort her. I did not have logical answers to her 'Whys'. I did not know what went wrong. All I know is Lucy did not deserve this.
I held her tight. Trying to calm her sobbing. The deep humming of the airplane engine went on in the background.
P.S. - Inspired by a little girl and her father, sitting next to me in one of the flights I took once. The conversation didn't take place actually. Just a work of fiction.
[Image Source: http://lh4.google.com/ericandamos/RfXMDzT7odI/AAAAAAAAAWE/
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I decided to post something lighter on blog today. And it couldn't have been better. I was surfing IBNLive this morning and came across this little chit-chat and taunting between Amir Khan and Shahrukh Khan that is going on these days in Bollywood. Amir had asked SRK 'How it felt to be No. 2'. SRK replied in a press conference saying "I just want to tell you, Aamir is a dear friend of mine and if he has thought that I am second to him, it's a great compliment to me."
War of words boomeranged on Amir himself. Dear Amir, you can't beat SRK in any department, be it acting, humor or personality. So it's about time you stopped attempting! SRK is and will be the 'King Khan'
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Ever since A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich, if you have been waiting for a good legal drama, your wait is over. Michael Clayton is undoubtedly one of the finest dramas of this year. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy (The screenplay writer of The Bourne movies), MC is gripping, thought provoking and a perfect crime drama.
George Clooney plays a lawyer/deal-maker in a large law-firm in NY city. A case that his firm is handling, involving a corporation, goes awry and he is called in to clean up. Things get nasty as he learns the truth behind the corporation and their tactics. Three fourth of the movie runs in flashback and then in the final piece of drama, the story springs back into present. The climax is one of the best in class and leaves the viewers smiling, amazed.
George Clooney once again proves why he is the boss in hollywood. Calm yet passionate, unpredictable and intense. Clooney literally lives his character. The intensity with which he acts puts him class apart from other actors. The camera work, lighting, motion and sound all remind me of The Bourne series. The only difference is that it is not as fast moving as Bourne yet equally enjoyable, even more so to some extent.
There have been a lot of movies about the 'the evil corporations'. This movie is also similar. But it views the story from a more humane perspective. The 'blind zones' created by the scriptwriter make the movie much more thrilling to watch. Total lack of predictability makes it a perfect thriller.
If it is running in any theater near you, go and watch it. I regret not watching this movie in theater. I am sure it would have been worth every minute and dollar spent on it
Monday, March 10, 2008
Unlucky that I am, I flunked the test in first attempt because I was 'under-speeding'. I was going at the speed of 25mph where the limit was 35mph. And the officer who was taking my test, failed me. Aah, felt bad. Then next week again, Akshay and I went to the DMV but it was a holiday. Third week of waiting and again came Saturday. Qadirbhai was back in the instructor's seat and we went for the second attempt. And this time I made it! Perfection eluded me even then and I lost 8 points for using wrong lane. But because it was more than 80% overall, they passed me.
Equipped with the 'License to Drive', I rented a car from Enterprise here for the first time over this weekend. I had asked for a standard sized sedan and what they gave me was this!
On second thought, this was not bad! They upgraded my request from standard to SUV as they didn't have any standard sized cars. And as I had not driven a SUV before, I was a bit hesitant. But looking back, it was fun driving this Jeep for 3 days.
My iPhone was a great help in finding my way to places. The Google Maps and inbuilt GPS like function are fantastic. I realized true value of iPhone now! A funny incident happened when I got stuck at the gas station. I had no clue how to operate the pump so I asked someone who was filling up his bike. He explained to me the operation and then I managed to use it. (Ok, I know it sounds dumb but I tried to handle the pump myself and couldn't do it. So i had to ask !)
Friday, March 07, 2008
In an interview with Cricinfo when asked his choice of best all-rounder of all time.
"....[But] if I had to pick my greatest allrounders, No. 1 would be Sir Garfield Sobers. He is the best batsman I have ever seen. Obviously there have been other [great] batsmen, but I have only seen people in the last 30 or 40 years. He was a fantastic batsman. As a bowler, he could bowl these wrist-spinner chinamen and the orthodox left-arm, but when he bowled seam-up - and he only did that late in his career - as a left arm swing-seamer he was quite sharp. He was much sharper than Kallis is now, at about Kallis's pace when he [Kallis] was at his youngest and best. He [Sobers] swung it alarmingly and he was a fantastic bowler.
If I had to pick another one it would be Imran Khan. If you look at his record, he averages about 37 with the bat and he gets his wickets at about 23. He has been a match-winner for Pakistan and to top that there were his leadership qualities. The Pakistan side were sometimes a rag-tag and bobtail bunch who were either fighting among themselves or there were political things going on. But Imran could pull them all together and make them what they usually are: a very talented, world-beating side. Imran has got to be in there [in my top three allrounders].
The other great allrounder I have seen is Ian Botham. He was a swing bowler at his best. He had a narrow waist, big shoulders, big back side, a lot of power and pace, and he could get right around and bowl outswingers at pace. A very aggressive bowler. He got his wickets cheaply, and then he was an exciting batman. To top that, he could catch at slip - he was brilliant.
I forgot about Sobers: he was a brilliant catcher too.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
They called Harbhajan Singh 'An obnoxious little weed'. They alleged him of racial abuse. The crowd booed him on the field. Ponting said 'They should look at their own backyard'. The entire Australian team was high on the spirit and ecstasy of arrogance. But the 'Men in Blue' did not lose focus. They were committed to answer the sledging and taunts of Australian in a befitting manner. And they did it yesterday. India won the CB series after defeating Aus in two straight finals. The series and the final was very remarkable in cricketing history for a variety of reasons.
I watched the entire match (Thanks to Sopcast!) after a long long time. And it was worth every minute spent watching it. Some of the highlights of yesterday's match.
- A brilliant, patient and classy knock by Sachin. But once again he became the victim of 'Nervous 90s'
- Sachin toppled Ponting to become No. 1 in ICC ranking
- Praveen Kumar was flawless. Some of his 'Leg break' type deliveries were just marvelous. He uses his wrist brilliantly to swing the ball both ways. He is one of the finds of the series
- Fielding of Indian side was very tight led by athletics of Yuvraj Singh on the field
- Dhoni has proved himself a very calm, composed and calculative captain who knows how to use his bowlers, not to mention his 'Lead by example' style both behind the wicket with his gloves and in front of it with his bat. It looked as if he has more than a decade of captaincy experience
- Despite of Srisanth's total lack of confidence, he held his nerves very well to deliver some very good overs in the slog overs time
- Symonds and Hayden both once again fell victim to Harbhajan. My advice to them, instead of targeting Harbhajan personally, focus more on his bowling and try to get over 'Harbhajanofobia'
- A very hilarious scene when a nude spectator ran down to the middle of the pitch. He approached Symonds with full force and momentum, but strong as a bullock he is, Symonds just stood there and the spectator bumped into him and fell hard flat on the ground. A display of enormous strength!
- A bit unfortunate for Sachin, but Praveen Kumar indeed deserved the Man of the Match award
[Image Source: http://www.ibnlive.com/photogallery/740-0.html#view_start]