Sunday, May 31, 2009

Five point Someone - Chetan Bhagat

This book was a present from a friend Nikhil. First of all, thanks Nikhil for this interesting, un-putdownable book.

I should have read this one long ago but there are so many books on the shelf that I don’t know which one to pick up. That is what happens when you start reading late in life, I guess.

It is the story of three boys who are students of IIT Delhi – students who are exceptional, not because they are above all, but because they refuse to conform to the norm and end up becoming the underdogs.

They perform all kinds of experiments – play sport, do drugs, watch movies, share assignments, try sneaking into the professor’s office to steal the exam paper and all that… and then face the consequence… I will not spoil the story for you…

As the author claims, the book is not about what to do or how to fare in IIT, but what not to do in IIT.

The scene of the story is the IIT of course but I believe it is a story that every student will be able to relate to.

The story is narrated by one of the characters/protagonists, Hari, in 1st person. But there are one or two chapters where the other two students, Ryan and Alok, get to tell their side of the story.

I could finish it sooner than I had expected as the story was fast paced and full of events occurring one after the other in the lives of the three.

The language used is spoken English (with all the pauses, crutch words, colloquial and slang) and not written English. That was just an observation and not a judgment.

There is humour on every page. Throughout the reading, I had a smile on my face. Most of the humour is sarcastic.

I loved the below lines…

He took out a chalk from his pocket with a flourish that celluloid terrorists reserved for hand grenades and underlined the word machine (on the blackboard) six times.

Time dragged so slow and comatose, fun was conspicuous by it’s absence.

Alok wrinkled his pug nose as he dispiritedly plopped a thick blob of green substance mess workers called bhindi masala into his plate.he slammed two Rotis on his stainless steel plate and ignored the rest of the semi-solid substances like Dal, Raita and Pulao. Ryan and I took everything; though everything tasted the same, we would at least have some variety of colours on our plate.

Sometimes, if you just paraphrase everyone’s arguments, you get to be the good guy.

Only girls can look hot in their nightclothes. Alok, for instance, looks like a terminally ill patient, in his torn vest and pyjamas.

Alok tried to ask the professor a for a re-quiz, who stared back as if he had been asked for both his kidneys.

About playing chess – Ryan usually won and I would never be passionate about bumping off plastic pieces like him.

About excitement over CNN, an American news channel – “Until then, we had two crummy government channels, in which women played obsolete instruments and dull men read news for insomniacs and retards. Colour had only arrived two years ago and most programs were black and white.”

Professor Goyal scratched his chin in response, which meant Ryan was right.

“What are you, Commerce students?” shouted the prof.
Calling a IITan a commerce student was one of the worst insults the professor could accord to us, like a prostitute calling her client a eunuch. The institute was a temple of science and anyone below standards was an outcaste or a commerce student.

Alok had as much of an idea of romantic gifts as his mother had about cabarets.

There is something about seeing your girlfriend’s parent for the first time. I couldn’t help but notice how cherian was an extremely bad replica of Neha; like her wax statue had puffed up first and then and then begun to melt haphazardly.
Cherian had a bald spot bigger than Nirula’s hamburger. If she dressed to act in a horror movie Neha would look like her father.

Do read this one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


This was our last day in Melvit’s place, the day of departure.

We had decided the other day that we would revisit Murudeshwar, but changed mind and took it easy. A few minutes away from Melvit’s house, there was the beach. All of us decided to walk to the beach.

How true it is that one should enjoy the journey and not run towards the destination!

We had to walk through fields and villagers’ huts before reaching the beach. Melvit had told me about this and I was ready with my camera. How often I have wished during my bus journey to Mysore that the bus would stop when passing by a green field and I could walk through the field!
So often, life gives you what you want. Isn’t it?
How I wish it would happen all the time!

So here I was, walking through fields, some green, some yellow, some golden and some brown…fountains of wheat swaying this way and that… there were the mountains there, some wet earth here, water flowing in canals, coconut trees, cattle grazing, a small bridge over a pond, children jumping into these ponds…

And then a stretch of sand slipping beneath my feet… and then, ETERNITY!

The sight of Murudeshwar from where we stood was a pleasant surprise!
The entire hillock, the temple gopura, the shiva statue …all appeared in one piece.

I started walking in that direction, leaving behind my bubbling, bursting, brewing friends rolling all over the beach…

We walked back.

I wish I had more time… it was time to return.

As the bus passed several bridges built over backwaters, I clicked continuously, eager to capture the beautiful scenery that was in continuous motion, wishing again that the bus would stop. :-)

King Lear - Shakespeare

I read Shakespeare in college. I think Othello was the one. I did not like it at all.

I picked up King Lear this time hoping that I would like it. And I did.

I had read the summary of King Lear in school and thought it a rather simple story.
Having read the original play this time, I cannot say I loved the story itself but I did like the literary splendour in those pages.

I took an unreasonably long time to finish this book which was hardly a hundred pages. I spent much time understanding the various ranks of aristocratic society.
I was struggling with the language initially but started enjoying it after the first few pages.
The more convoluted the sentences became, the more I enjoyed deciphering them.

We all know the story. King Lear had three daughters – Goneril, Regan and Cordelia – in that order. The king’s judgment failed him on a fateful day. He got carried away by the flattery of his two elder daughters with ulterior motives. But he condemned and banished his last daughter who refused to flatter him, but loved him sincerely.

The king realized his folly soon after he divided his wealth between the two elder daughters and their husbands, who treated him with unkindness.

Cordelia, the third daughter, did not inherit anything from her father. The king of France who loved her, married Cordelia and took her with him to France.

The earl of Gloucester, a member of the King’s court, similarly permitted himself to be poisoned by his illegitimate son Edmund who eyed the throne greedily, against his good son Edgar.

In the meanwhile, an illicit affair started between Edmund and Goneril.

All the shrewd characters plot against one another, deserving each other’s shrewdness.
In this story of greed, foolishness, betrayal and wickedness, death triumphs over the protagonists and the antagonists alike.

While the situations are not so improbable, the story itself is very improbable – it is an overkill - the kind of tragedy that exasperates you more and moves you less.

As you all might know, Shakespeare’s one lines and quotes are famous.
Here are a few lines from this book that I found noteworthy.

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child…

Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides…

The art (alchemy) of our necessities is strange, that can make vile things precious…

The worst is not, so long as we can say “this is the worst”…

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport…

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile…

Filths savour but themselves…

Thou hast spoken right, ‘t is true; the veil is come full circle; I am here…

I am a gentleman of blood and breeding…

And from the extremist upward of thy head to the descent and dust below thy foot, a most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou “no”, this sword, this arm and my best spirits are bent to prove upon thy heart, where to I speak, thou liest…

You all have heard the word bedlam and used it too. Now, this is how the word originated.

Bedlam – A generic name for mad beggars who often roamed the country side; Bedlam refers to the London insane asylum at the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May The Axle Wear Out...

Some days are ok. Some days are bad. And then there are those that are agonizingly painful.

Garcia Marquez says in “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, “The history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle”.

This life too which is a protest of romance against the commonplace of life, is a turning wheel of repetitions... of the swelling of heart with ecstasy…and then the bleeding of it…pulling of the arrow…drying of the blood... of exultation followed by despondency… of reading the signs that lay strewn in my path, of wondering later what those signs actually meant and why they were there in the first place, misleading me all the time… of leaping with joy this moment at the sight of that face...that smile…and wriggling with pain the next day at the disappearance of that face and that smile…of building castles in air, of those castles crumbling down...of swimming in a mire of eternal dichotomy, sometimes towards the shore of free will and sometimes towards the shore of destiny …of trying to be in control..of being carried away…of the heart conjuring improbable miseries, and then consoling itself…of cynicism… of wishful thinking...of optimism…of turning away from God…of running back to Him in desperation…

With every turn of the wheel, my whole being, my body, my mind and my soul are having to endure the suffering caused by the folly of this incurable and incorrigible heart…I wish it would turn into stone…

“…a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle…”

May the axle wear out soon… May I be delivered from this eternal cycle of uncertainty…

Some days are ok. Some days are bad. This day happens to be an agonizingly painful day.
Today I wish I would die. May death come upon me and end the trammels of this travel of tantalization.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sadarame & Jagatjyothi Basaveshwara


I watched these two plays during the Rangashankara theatre festival.

In one line, this play was an example of “Whole is greater than the parts…”

Although the producers would like the audience to believe that the central character was Sadarame, a beautiful young woman, a lot of “stage space” (since I cannot say screen space) was taken up by Gubbi Veeranna's grand-daughter B. Jayashree who played a thief during the second half of the play.

There were many many characters and many stories/sequences/threads. There was this miserly seth from Andhra and his son. There was this prince who was in love with Sadarame, friends of Sadarame, another king who cast his eyes upon her, an evil woman who is an accomplice of the bad king, the thief…and many more…

It was a very long play. The stage was set up very well (painted backdrops, doorways with plastic flowers and creepers). The costumes, the music and the time during which the play is set, the historic period of monarchy, made it all look very charming.

The play opened with the rendition of a classical song (sung by the entire troupe), that I thought was very well sung, as though by professionals.

To add to this charm, the opening few scenes had a good looking prince who had fallen in love and was singing love songs for Sadarame whom he had not met yet. The play thus started with a promise.

There were some characters that provided much comic relief – the deaf woman, the miserly son of the seth(businessman) from Andhra, and others that had the audience falling from their chairs.

But then, the story went this way and that and that and this…to most improbable situations…
Many other threads came into picture.

At some places, it was an overkill.
Humour was repetitive – it reminded me of those people who narrate jokes and when people burst out laughing, they repeat the joke, especially the last part to make people laugh once more…
It was too long. The story wasn’t quite a story… just the stuffing together of many sequences to somehow make the audience take interest and laugh.

Dialogue delivery wasn’t great…but mysteriously, all of them had well trained voices and sang really well.

You can certainly watch it once.

Jagajyoti Basaveshwara

A very old play indeed! It has been revived. It’s the legend of Basaveshwara popularly known as Basavanna in North Karnataka.
There was a motley mix of various characters on stage. A king, his subjects, ministers, Basaveshwara, his wife, haralayya, his wife, a seth from Andhra and his son. And many more.

The team was from Dharwad and did a good job of presenting the culture and language (dialect) of North Karnataka.(I think so!)

The centre of attraction was a 95 year old Yenagi Balappa who played the role of “Shivasharana Haralayya” in this new production.

He was returning to stage after 25 years. Nataraj Yenagi was his son who played a member of the king’s court and Adish Yenagi, Natraj’s son also played some role.
Artistes of 3 generations performed in the same play.

The play was entertaining on the whole. There was the old fashioned comedy of the black and white movie days. Yenagi Nataraj was particularly good and provided much comic relief.

But the play could have been shorter by at least 40 minutes. Some dialogues, scenes were boring and unnecessary. The play lacked a certain class, not to mention the fact that the artistes were mispronouncing certain Kannada words which according to me is unpardonable.

I still don’t understand why the man who played Basavanna’s role had that nameless expression on his face. He did not smile once. He looked constipated. His eyes looked watery. There was too much paint on his face. I don’t know if that layer of paint was the reason why he could not animate his face. A lot of people mistakenly believe that enlightened men do not react, do not smile, laugh or weep… not many truly understand the meaning of the word “Sthitapragnya”.

You can watch this play once, if only to know how plays in the older days used to be performed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


This wonderful place was my father’s discovery. A temple in a small village called Hosaholalu. I did not have great expectations as we left home that morning. I enjoyed the drive anyway and hoped to get some good pictures of the green fields on our way.

After driving for a little more than an hour, we reached this village and parked the car in front of the temple.
One look at the fa├žade of the temple and I remarked that I was disappointed.

We entered the temple and lo! There was no electricity!

But in that dark, illuminated occasionally by beams of sunlight here and there and lamps burning inside the sanctum, what revealed to us was the magnificent story of another era.

Stone, stone and stone all around … beaten, chiseled, engraved, carved and polished by relentless men of a bygone past until they had taken shape of the beauty that the sculptor had conceived.

We were in a temple built in the Hoysala architecture style! It was a protected monument.

I had to make an effort to turn my attention away from the pillars, statues and intricate carvings around me to the deities in the sanctum, as the hymns were recited by the priest, pooja performed and blessings given.
We stepped outside, ate the prasada, hoped the electric supply would be restored and proceeded to examine the exterior of the temple.

And what we found was absolutely splendid! Marvellous! Let the pictures speak.

Before you proceed, let me share with you what I found in Wikipedia about this place. I should have researched the place before visiting it … I would have appreciated it much more…

"The Lakshminarayana Temple located in Hosaholalu, a small town in Mandya district of Karnataka, India was built by king Vira Someshwara of the Hoysala Empire in 1250 CE. The date of the temple has been ascertained by the style of the sculptures and architecture and compares closely with the contemporeneous Hoysala architecture at Javagalu, Nuggehalli, Somanathapura etc. The town of Hosaholalu is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Hassan and 45 kilometres (28 mi) from the heritage city Mysore, the cultural capital of Karnataka state."

I am trying to compete with the Shilabalikas… :)

We rested for sometime in the cool shade of the temple...and ate watermelon

And then as luck would have it, the lights went on…and we returned to the inside of the temple.

There were three deities in three sanctums; Venugopala (Krishna), Narasimha and Lakshminarayana.

And to my utter disbelief (and good fortune), photography was officially permitted.

We drove back to Mysore.
I went through all the pictures that I had taken over and over as we had lunch at Dasaprakash paradise.