Saturday, June 13, 2009


Its been awhile since i read my last novel. Have been really busy studying for my engineering exams and with my project and project report. So when I decided to pick up my next novel I went to my favourite author whos first ever book ive been meaning to read for an eon.

This has to go down as one of the best books on a naval ship during World War II; i mean World War II is so full of extraordinary stories of human endurance and the horrors, feats and the futility of war plus the professional admiration and damnation of the other party for both sides that are at war.

A crew that has been lead to mutiny not because they are unhappy with the captain infact there is none whom they respect and admire more than the legendary Captain Vallery; but because they have already been driven to their limit and almost to the point of madness and even murder. This is an account of how tough life can get aboard a naval ship. This crew has no time for rest because it needs to urgently escort a convoy - a FR-77 all the way to Murmansk from Scapa Flow in the UK. The lack of consideration of the Royal Navy is highlighted here. Also there is the fear of obvious encounters with U-boats and fighter aircrafts as the Germans would do everything in their power to bring down this convoy and the Ulysses which would be a prize in itself. If that wasnt enough there is a possible chance of an encounter with the great German battleship 'the Tirpitz'.

So they set out on this ill-fated voyage. Maclean in his typical style goes at length to describe the entire ship and all the aspects that go along. These detailed descriptions is what is love about his books. Seriously nobody describes action as well as he does. They encounter the greatest Arctic storm ever, and finally make the rendezvous with the convoy. Then come the U-boats wolf-packs. MacLean makes a mention of the brilliant German technology and tactics along the way aswell. The lucky Ulysses is outdone by one of these when Admiral Tyndall makes a horrible blunder by believing he can take down a ship with a radar of a seemingly longer range than the one on the Ulysses. The Ulysses walks into the trap and the U-boats destroy the ship. After that Captain Vallery steps in to do some damage control until his death. Ultimately the Ulysses sinks by ramming into an attacking cruiser after all her communication and weaponry has been destroyed mainly by the aircrafts that crashed into the ship. The convoy with a meer 5 ships out of 32 remaining do reach Murmansk.

The book mainly highlights human resilience more than tactical brilliance. Its a must read for any seaman or any wannabe seaman.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

STAR GAZING courtesy Khagol Mandal

date : 28th March 2009
venue : Vangani (place close to Karjat)

I had my mind set on this one for quite a while considering i had missed the one that happened in Feb. The journey to Vangani was not as annoying as i had anticipated. The key is take fast from CST/Dadar that later becomes a slow...from Kalyan or whatever. It takes exactly 2hrs. We were supposed to reach by 6.00pm so we boarded the local train at 4.00pm. By we i mean Rohan and i. Chetan came directly by himself. All i carried was a mattress, water, torch, snacks, notepad, pen, a disposable glass for the free tea, my Nikon camera and 150/- rupees.

The registration fees was Rs. 70/-. The crowd was divided into a Marathi and English vocation. The crowd was surprisingly large. People had come with their entire families. Most slept off during the night so i was at loss to the whole point of them coming in the first place. There were some non-indians on board aswell. The number of telescopes on display were however less than usual.

The program started at 7.00pm with a brief introduction of Khagol Mandal and the skywatch. That was followed by a description of a telescope, its construction and functioning. The first session started at around 7:30pm. The significance of the day being the Vernal Equinox that had only just gone by. The guide described the night sky brilliantly; besides giving us the insight into greek mythology and astronomy he also mentioned the Marathi and Hindu myths and historical significance of the various constellation, gods and names of months. And more importantly it was an explanation for dummies in the field of astrology and astronomy. He was also well equiped with a laser with which he would point at the night sky; it was the first time i recognised the highly penetrative nature of the laser beam.

After the first session were shown the planet Saturn (its rings clearly visible), beta monoserotis and orion through telescopes and then were allowed to have dinner. At 10:30 the second session began. Constellations of leo and virgo. and bootus and hydra were visible. A tea break followed and we were shown some of the Pleads clusters via the telescopes. At 1:30am there were two slideshow presentations given on eclipses and general gyan on the universe.

That was followed by a question answer session where people active partcipated. Another tea break. At around 4.00am another session. The constellations of scorpio, libra and sagitarius were visible; so was jupiter. By 5.00 the program was over and the three of us wanted to catch the 5.00am train; so we skipped the telescope round and ran to the vangini pitch dark...with the village cock cock-a-doodleing at the top of his voice.

I surely want to skywatch again. Thankyou to the enthusiastic organisers at khagol mandal for this great program.

For info on the organisation and future events :

Monday, March 23, 2009

How to Solve a Rubik Cube ? - beginners guide

ive been fooling around with the cube for two days now and after some perseverance and some help from the tutorial videos on youtube i seem to have got the hang of it.

lets assume the top face that is the first face you will be completing is the red face.

also when in an algorithm i say up or right the direction is always clockwise. you will have to picture yourself maybe facing the face on the right and go from there...if you kno what i mean.

up' = up inverted = anticlockwise direction

kindly refer the diagram (pardon my coloring)

step 1 (red) : the cross - DIY

step 2 (blue) : top corners - DIY

what you should now have is the red face complete along with the top row adjoining the red face.
the colours in this top row should obviously match the centre colours you wouldve considered when making the cross.

step 3 (green) : middle row edges
condition 1 - moving an edge from bottom to left
first turn the face you are concerned about to the left.
then do the algorithm : left , bottom , left , bottom , left , bottom' , left' , bottom' , left'

condition 2 - moving an edge from bottom to right
first turn the face you are concerned about to the left.
then do the algorithm : left' , bottom' , left' , bottom' , left' , bottom , left , bottom , left

condition 3 - moving an edge from left to right
first turn the face you are concerned about to the left.
then do the algorithm : left , left , bottom , bottom , left , left

condition 4 - flipping an edge that is already in place
do either 2 or 3 as above to get it out of that position. then put it back the right way using 2 or 3.

step 4 (black) : bottom cross
first turn the cube upside down. you're problem is now the face at the end opposite to red. consider one of the undone sides and rotate it in such a way that one red column is now facing you. then do an up , behind , up' ... that is go reverse ... please use your common sense here.

step 5 (yellow) : bottom row edges
arrange it so that atleast two of them are already done
just do the algorithm which is easy to remember : right , up , right' , up , right , up , up , right'

step 6 (purple) : bottom corners
your reference point is the bottom-right corner.

select a corner that is already in place even though it may be jumbled. if none are in place then ignore the previous statement.
then do the algorithm : up , right (away from you) , up' , left' (away from you) ; up , right' (towards you) , up' , left (towards you)

do it again if the first time dosnt work.

once all the corners are in place albeit jumbled do the algorithm : right' , down' , right , down
repeat this till the bottom-right corner sets. and dont worry about the rest of the cube.
then rotate the bottom (ie face opposite end of red) so that another undone corner is at bottom-right and repeat the algorithm till this sets.
continue this till all the corners set and your rest of the cube that seemed destroyed comes back into place.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Tridib was kind enough to lend me this book on behalf of Oneek. It took me a while to get going (mainly because it is a journal and NOT A REGULAR NOVEL), but once i got into the flow, it was a real quick read.

I am not a Nirvana fan. Nirvana for me marked the point when mainstream music changed for the worst, the state it is in right now. Kurt Cobain is by no means a legend. There is no freakin way you can even begin to compare him to the likes of Elvis, John Lennon, Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix (musicians I hugely admire, all dying unfortunate deaths). So what if he shot himself and had and still has a huge fan-following. Punk rock and grunge has gone from bad to worse. Punk is not dead...I wish it were.

Back to the book.
The first thing you notice is his shockingly bad handwriting. Ironically he had a great artists hand, the various cartoon images he has drawn support that. He possessed what-some-might-say screwed up but what-i-might-say creative mind. The journals show his many moods and they are all intriguing. They show his thought process as he made his music - the writing, editing, re-editing, notes on the side including the cancellations, all in Kur(d)t's own handwriting. And I really cannot help but quote him from the book. Heres some insight into his mind...

'If you read you'll judge' - says the cover of the book...which is also the cover of one of his journals.

'...we basically want to be on your label. Do you think you could PLEASE! send us a reply of Fuck off, or NOT interested so we dont have to waste more money sending more tapes? thanks. Nirvana'

'our hobbies and interests are different and a band cant be a unit unless all the members are're a great drummer and hope you pursue another band very soon. We expect you to be totally pissed off and hate our guts and we dont blame you...and we feel really shitty that we dont have the guts to tell you in person...your talent shouldnt go to waste.' - letter to Dave Foster (Nirvana's 2nd drummer)

'to be positive at all times is to ignore all that is important, sacred or valuable. to be negative at all times is to be threatened by ridiculousness and instant discredibility. to translate opinions in an obvious search for proof of intelligence in the manner of abusive use of obscure descriptive words is a desperational will to sincere, yet retarded expression...i feel there is a universal sense of amongst our generation that everything has been said and done. True. but who cares...this is the first decade since the early 1940's that two generations share the same music' - Reversion Relapse...guess whos stoned...

'It turned out that pot didnt help me escape my troubles too well anymore and i was actually enjoying doing rebellious things like stealing this booze and busting store windows, getting in fist fights, etc...and nothing even mattered. I decided within the next month i'll not sit on my root and think about jumping, but i'll actually kill myself. And I wasnt going out of this world without knowing what it is like to get laid...' - enter kurt cobain.

'we want to cash in and suck butt of the big wigs in hopes that we too can get high and fuck...soon we will need chick repellant spray...'

'Music is ENERGY. A mood, atmosphere. FEELING. The Melvins have and will always be the king pins of EMOTION. Im not talking about fucking stupid human compassion, this is one of the only realistic reminders that everyday we live amongst VIOLENCE.'

'I like following the lives of entertainers careers, i like punk rock, i like girls with wierd eyes, i like drugs, i like passion, i like things tht r well built, i like innocence... i like killing gluttony, i like playing my cards wrong, i like to write poetry,...i like vinyl... i like to b with my friends, i like to be with myself, i like to feel guilty about being a white american male, i love to sleep... i like to taunt small barking dogs in parked cars... i like to make incisions into the belly of infants and then fuck the incisions until the child dies... i like to have strong opinions with nothing to back them up with besides my primal sincerity...I like sincerity, i lack sincerity, these are not opinions, these are not words of wisdom, this is a disclaimer, a disclaimer for my lack of education, for my loss of inspiration, for my unnerving quest for affectionand my perfunctory shamefulness towards many who are of my relative age. Its not even a poem. its a big pile of shit like me.' - theres 3 pgs worth of this introspect.

'i can only fuck and sing...i have lost my mind many times, and my wallet many times more.
in the simplest terms : 1)Dont rape. 2)Dont be prejudice. 3)Dont be sexist. 4) Love your children. 5)Love your neighbour. 6)Love yourself. dont let your opinions obstruct the aforementioned list.' - words of wisdom from kurt

'thanks for the tragedy i need it for my art. punk rock is is sacred. punk rock is freedom, expression and right to express is vital - anyone CAN be artistic.' - i dunno abt punk rock but yes anyone can be artistic.

'i am male. age 23 and im lactating. my breasts have never been so sore... i havnt masturbated in months because ive lost my imagination...i close my eyes and i see my father, little girls, german shephards and tv news commentators, but no volutous, pouty lipped, naked- female sex kittens, wincing in ecstasy ffrom the illusory positions ive conjured up in my mind. No when i close my eyes i see lizards and flipper babies, the ones who were born deformed because their mothers took bad birth control pills. Im seriously afraid to touch myself' - thats why you DONOT DO DRUGS.

just to let you know all of the above is in the first half of the book...and theres crazy loads more.

final word : its a must read for matter if you're a nirvana fan or not.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Industrial Visit to CETTM - MTNL; Hiranandani, Mumbai

Date : 27 feb 2009

Well at long last we had a trip organized for our EXTC batch of 2009 by the college. The venue was CETTM (Centre for Excellence in Telecom Technology and Management) - MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.) - India's most reputed telecom company - and it was located at Hiranandani, Powai, Mumbai.

We were scheduled to assemble at the venue by 9:30am; so (as expected) everyone turned up by 10:30am (and some even later). The unfortunate ones who came early were given the opportunity to wait in the cafeteria. The cafe was huge, but the lack of options in the food we could order was shocking. The four professors who take up our subjects for this semester, namely Prof. Deshmukh, Prof. Savarkar, Prof Boyer and Prof Patil were present. We were made to sit in a state-of-the-art conference room which was quite impressive.

Finally at 10:30, Mr. Prashant Reddy started proceeding by giving us an overview on what we would be briefed on during the day. He also gave a brief talk on transmission network, CDR (call data record) and switching and the imprortance of IT in telecom. We were then shown a video on the training facility that we were in. The video seemed to be made for the sole purpose of selling the place to the viewer. With some really fancy background music and quotes like 'the facility is set in an oasis of calm' offering 'training and tranquility' had everyone chuckling. Mr. Samir then gave us a lecture on transmission in telecom. Everything from losses in different transmission media (copper, air and fibre) to network topologies, PDH and SDH, ITU-T standards and TRAI. Mr. Pradeep tookover from him and brief us on network switching. He emphasised on how we need to know the history of telecom in India before jumping into wireless. He spoke about the different generations of telecom technology and then went on to talk about how switching takes place at the telephone exchange. Also basics like PCM and durations of timeslots while scanning subscribers was covered by him.

We were then divided into 3 groups and given a tour of the labs at CETTM. I first visited the 'Model Exchange Lab' (switching) where Mr. Pradeep first gave a presentation explaining the working of OCB-283. He then showed us the racks and the various cards they contained explaining the function of each (or atleast the more important ones). He rounded it off by saying "all cards look the same". The second lab my group visited was the 'SDH-OFS lab' where Mr. Samir showed and explained PDH and then SDH schemes and how they are connected. Both the labs had equipment that we had never heard of in our textbooks but we did kinda understood their working and how they were important in the big scheme of things (whatever that means).

That was followed by a half an hour lunch break in the cafe.

2:15 pm...Ms Shivkamini, the manager of CETTM gave us refreshing talk on her work and why the traing facility was built. Prof Savarkar thanked her for her hospitality and after the obligations were over we visited the 'OFC,MPLS lab' where we were shown optical fibre cutting and splicing. Same lab we were shown MPLS routers and switching.

A brief tea break followed in where else but the cafe. Some people excused themselves and managed to escape the facility.

The rest of us were audience to a lecture first by Mr. Reddy who asked us some simple questions (which no one could answer) and later by Mr. Naathan. The latter gave us quite an animated lecture on GSM and wireless communications with a few jokes along the way, which really helped. In the end, on the repeated insistence of Prof Patil we had a group photograph taken at the gate.

Overall a welcome change from our regular dry lectures. Personally I think in the future every college will need to have these centres for practical training or will need to have affiliations with places like CETTM. Trips like these should happen on a regular basis in engineering colleges. Only then will we realise that what we are studying in our books is something that is actually quite necessary to know.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Train to Pakistan - Khushwant Singh

"India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow-protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Sikh, long hair and hatred of the Muslim. For the christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire-worship and feeding vultures. Ethics, which should be the kernel of religious code, has been carefully removed... Proof? we do not go into such pedestrian pastime as proof! That is Western. We are of the mysterious East. No proof, just faith. No reason; just faith."

Khushwant Singh has provided with a brilliant account of India during the partition of the country aswellas the life and nature of Indians in general. As an Indian and a Punjabi I found this book very close to home. My father has told me stories of my past relatives who had to migrate from Pakistan area to India during this time...but only after reading this book do i genuinely admire their venture.

Khushwant Singh has written this book as a neutral, which is a truly awesome thing. I mean, being a sikh himself, he has openly ridiculed some of the traits of sikhs (which is something he is famous for actually) and has also declared that it wasnt just the Muslims that did all the killing, but it was the whole nation in a state of chaos. He also does not refrain from taking jabs at Gandhi and Nehru.

The story is told with a small village, Mano Majra, near the Indo-Pak border, as a reference which has somehow survived the killings and has so far remained as peaceful as it always has been. This village is next to a railway station and also near the Sutlej river. Juggut Singh, a budmash (or a known dacoit) can be considered to be the protagonist. The peace in this village is one day disturbed when a dacoity takes place and the blame is automatically placed on Juggu. But Juggu was innocent as he having a good time with his love Nooran (who is muslim) just outside the village. At the same time an educated social worker Iqbal has come to the village and is also arrested under suspicion. Juggu reveals the names of the dacoits but the police even after capturing them let them go and keep Juggu and Iqbal under custody. Meanwhile things start happening thick and fast in the village. First a train full of corpses of sikhs turns up at Mano Majra. The burning of these bodies leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the villagers (consisting of half sikhs and rest muslims and only one hindu family living in peace for generations). Then comes the rain and the Sutlej starts rising. But its not just water that is flooding the river. The river is found carrying countless corpses clearly murdered. Then another train shows up from Pakistan similar to the earlier 'ghost train'. This time the bodies are buried. The magistrate and the sub-inspector of the village arrange for the evacuation of the muslims from the village avoid any ugliness. The villagers comply but only after they hold an emotional meeting. Also sikh refugees have come to the village from Pakistan. Then the magistrate hears of a armed young boy accompanied with some men. He agitates the villagers against the muslims and plots his own massacre when a train full of muslims including the ones from Mano Majra is headed to Pakistan. The magistrate decides to free Juggu and Iqbal in hope that they can change the boy's scheme. This is where we get to see the greatest irony. Iqbal the social worker drinks his whiskey, gets philosophical and falls asleep, convinced that he cannot alter destiny and he is just one man. Juggu, the budmash, meanwhile gets on top of the rope meant to kill hundreds of muslims and in the nick of time cuts it, at the price of his life. The train heads of to Pakistan with no casualties and the muslims owe their lives to a sikh and a budmash.

This is where the book suddenly ends. The climax of the book is hardly one and a half pages and the reader is left asking for more. But there isnt anymore. No nonsense about Juggu passing into legend or the reaction of the boy who claimed to be a revolutionary. I must say that i enjoyed even the lack of the typical epilogue. very Alistair Maclean.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

"I swear-by my life and my love of it-that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

This very highly upheld book by many many people around the world is probably Ayn Rand's best and is an extreme portrayal of a man's egoist nature and how it changes the world for the better. One man recognizes his suffocation in the world that functions around him and decides to do something about it. He realizes that the people at the highest powers are not only without the ability to think or take the world forward but they are actually controlling and forcing the doers to comply to their wishes thus destroying them. He then goes about recognizing and winning over or simply convincing the doers of the world to join him and quit the world as they know it, quit everything they ever lived for until the time when the world simply stops functioning. Once the non-doers are out of the way these men come out of their hiding and begin rebuilding the world as it should be. This man's name is John Galt.

The book mostly revolves around Dagny Taggart who is John's 'constant' and is the Vice-chairman of Taggart Transcontinental Railway. Other chief characters are Hank Rearden (who invents a new form of an alloy that is stronger, lighter and cheaper than steel) and Francisco D'Aconia (inheriter of the great D'Aconia copper mines and a genius by birth). The book revolves around how Dagny and Francisco grew up together and were destined to inherit their great buisness's. Francisco however a friend of John's joined his quest and molded his reputation and ultmately destrying his own company taking with him the many bigshots of the nation that had invested in his mines. Dagny dosnt know anything about Francisco's objectives as yet. Hank Rearden was brought down by the non-doers because of their fear of a monopoly of Rearden steel. Dagny however believed in him and bought his steel for her railroad. As John, Francisco and a certain pirate Ragnar Danneskjold went around destroying the world, Dagny and Rearden did everything they could to resist. Then Dagny discovers Atlantis; the place where all the brains that had dissappeared were hiding. There she meets John Galt and beholds the motor he has comeup with that generates electric current from static electricity around us. But she decides she is not yet ready for being one of them. Rearden meanwhile slowly succumbs to the pressures by the non-doers and gives up and joins Galt. In the end Galt gives a 3-hr long speech to the people of the nation on his philosophy about how one is supposed to live on this planet. How the mind is the greatest thing and selfishness the greatest virtue. The non-doers capture him through Dagny and try to torture him into working for them. An encounter follows. John is rescued and the world that has halted is revived and brought to its senses.

The concept of the book is that why on earth does Atlas (the man in the figure) continue to painfully carry the world when it is hell bent on destroying him and itself. Let him simply shrug, and let the world crumble. Then when all the non-doers are eliminated; he can set the world right for himself and his kind.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hollywood Babylon - Kenneth Anger

'Drama - a city-full,
Tragic and pitiful...
Bunk, junk and genius
Amazingly blended...'
- Don Blanding

'My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-
It gives a lovely light!'
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

For someone (like me) who had knew nothing about early Hollywood (or Hollywoodland as it was called then) this book was a certain eye-opener. Anger's book is complete with scandal and graphic in-your-face pictures of nudity and death of movie stars people loved and dreamed to emulate. He traces Hollywood from the very beginning in 1915 with Grifith's Babylon - whom he calls the 'God of Hollywood' to the death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 and eventually the tearing down of the LAND in the iconic structure of HOLLYWOODLAND into simply HOLLYWOOD as it still stands today.

The book starts of with a mention of Babylon and then goes on to mention the birth of the 'fatal chimera – STAR'. He describes the natives as 'the cinema crowd of cocaine-crazed, sexual lunatics' (this he says was in the teens). But it was a sign of things to come. He gives Theda Bara the title of the 'first sex queen' and gives the reader the first shock to hit 'the Golden Age' of Hollywood with Olive Thomas' death from poison. A chapter devoted to Olive Thomas - the 'ideal American girl' who turned out to be a 'dope fiend'. Then theres the mention of the story of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle – the 'prince of whales' and his mauling of Virginia Rappe. William Taylor's murder and the resulting expose of his multiple affairs. Will Hays was then appointed to 'clean up' Hollywood who came out with his 'Doom Book'. The story of Wally Reid – 'the King of Paramount' follows. The titles of his chapters are in themselves epitomes of scandal. Names like 'Champagne Baths' and 'Heroin Heroines'. The latter about Barbara La Marr and Alma Rubens. Even Charlie Chaplin gets his but is latter upholded as a survivor as a mark of his genius. The murder of Tom Ince by Hearst and the coverup. The scandal and death of the popular 'Pink Powder Puffs' - Rudy Valentino. Stronheim's outrageous boldness and imagination.The 'Clara Bow' and 'Daisy DeVoe' courtwar. Then he describes the stock market crash and how the depression resulted in multiple suicides and some heroes like Joan Crawford who quoted “I, Joan Crawford, I believe in the Dollar. Everything I earn, I spend!”. Peg Entwistle meanwhile committed suicide by jumping of the 13 letter and the second D of HOLLYWOODLAND. Mae West is brilliantly covered by Anger; so is Mary Astor and her graphic and no-holds-barred diary. Thelma Todd's murder remained unsolved. Errol Flynn's rescue by smart lawyer Jerry Geisler. Frances Farmer losing her wits. The suicide of Lupe Velez. The entry of Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel an the making of Las Vegas as we know it and his death and a funeral that no one attended. The anti-communist campaign and the rise of Confidential. The obsession of the beautiful Lana Turner and finally the death of Marilyn Monroe and other tragedies.

Phew! The book ends in a dialogue between a wannabe star and Dick Powell who tells the girl that 'hollywood is a boulevard of broken dreams' and asks her to go back to the boy who loves her on the town 'little rock' and then he breaks into a sad song...

Monday, January 26, 2009


Jan 10, 2009

Total Charges:
Rs 150 for the transportation + Rs 160 total ticket costs + Rs 10 for their guidance and commentary

8:30 to 10:30 - pickup

1st stop -
Gateway of India
Taj Hotel (old and new)
Leopold Cafe

on the drive :
Bombay Stock Exchange Building
Trident / Oberoi / Hilton / Marine Plaza 5-star Hotels
Air-India Building

2nd stop -
Taraporvala Aquarium
Marine Drive

on the drive :
Girgaum Chowpatty
Jain Temple

3rd stop -
Hanging Garden
Nehru Park

on the drive :
Haji Ali
Mahalaxmi Racecourse

4th stop -
Nehru Science Centre

5th stop -
Ataria Mall (ORAMA 4D movie)

6th stop -
Mahalaxmi Temple

on the drive :
actors' bunglows in Juhu

7th stop -
Juhu Beach

Shall we tell the president? - Jeffery Archer

The story can be considered to be the 3rd part of the trilogy concerning the Kanes'; first being 'Kane and Abel' and second 'The Prodigal Daughter'; both absolutely brilliant books and my favourites of all the Archer novels. So I went into this novel with high expectations. As with any other Archer novel no background read is necessary however the ones who have read the other two books might identify with two, three characters in this book.

The Prodigal Daughter ended with Florentyna Kane being declared as the President of the United States of America mid-way through the tenure of the previous under whom she had served as the vice-president; after his unfortunate death. The book starts off two years hence after Kane has been re-elected as President and has taken the Presidents' oath. [The book provides a very good insight into the Presidents' inauguration procedure.] And very early on, the author displays that the book will revolve around the Gun Control bill that Kane wants passed forbidding anyone to possess a gun without a valid license.

After this prologue, the plot involves the FBI Washington Office. Calvert and Andrews are asked to investigate the story of a Greek who has been shot in the leg and is now admitted in the Woodrow Wilson Hospital. This Greek claims that he overheard a Senator plotting the Presidents' assassination on the day and just before the the Gun Control bill will be voted for by the Senate. [The book provides a very good insight into the working of the FBI.] Then Calvert and the 2 agents' boss Nick Stames get run off the road resulting in their death and the Greek is found dead on his hospital bed resulting in Mark Andrews being the only person to know about the Greek's revelation. Being a new recruit Mark is quite at loss at what he should do so he calls the Director of FBI and confides in him. All this happens on the 3rd March and the scheduled date for the supposed assassination is the 10th March. Besides this Mark falls in love with a doctor he meets during his investigation named Elizabeth who just happens to be Senator Dexter's daughter. [The book has some really smart metaphors and personifications involving Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that displays Archer's wit and presence of mind. Real smart and it makes a great read.]

The Director asks Mark to take a leave from the FBI so that he can work on the case when he is actually not supposed to be work; not exactly undercover but to same effect. Then he sets him to some research work gradually narrowing down the list of senators that could be involved in the murder. Mark works in the morning, spends time with Elizabeth in the evening and puts forth a report on the Directors desk the following early morning and the cycle repeats. Meanwhile the Director keeps a close eye on Mark's activities along with the narrowed down list of senators' activities. With some lucky breaks and some smooth talk Mark narrows the list to 2 senators that could be involved one of whom is Dexter. Now besides the Mark story Archer also presents the story from the assassinators point of view, of their meetings, planning and doubts.

On the 10th March, Mark informs the director that Dexter cannot be involved and the Director who has the entire area near the Capitol covered with agents ready for any action takes some smart last minute decisions resulting in the President alive, Mark injured but safe, the senator dead, three arrests and one escaped conspirator. Mark gets the girl in the end and a congratulations and thankyou from the President herself. As for the bill, the voting date is postponed but the odds of it being passed is almost certain.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Brisingr - Christopher Paolini

I finally managed to get my hands on the latest of the Inheritance series ( or cycle; as the Mr. Paolini prefers to call it ) of books and as with his previous efforts, the book impresses and so does Paolini.

A brief summary of the previous books in the cycle namely 'Eragon' followed by 'Eldest' is provided but it is by no means means that anyone will follow the book without reading the above two. 'Brisingr' is very much a continuation and reading 'Eragon' and 'Eldest' is a must.

'Brisingr' starts of exactly (or maybe a few days after) where 'Eldest' was left of. Eragon and his cousin Roran are at Helgrind out to rescue Roran's love Katrina who was captured by the Razac. An inevitable encounter follows with Eragon and Roran fight the Razac after Saphira had somehow found a way to enter the fortress. Eragon along with Saphira manage to defeat one Razac and injure the other as Roran rescues Katrina. Eragon later finds Sloan alive but refrains from telling that to the couple. He convinces Saphira to fly Roran and Saphira back to the Varden while he himself had to stay back to finish some unfinished buisness. (This is a very very crude version of what happens...plz read the book). Eragon defeats the other Razac and punishes the blind Sloan instead of killing him and forces him to travel to Du Waldervarden (the land of the elves) by himself. The concept of 'you cannot break the oath you took in the ancient language' is really appealing. If only something like it really existed.

Once that was out of the way, Eragon accompanied by Arya (who was sent by Nasauda to look for him) reached Surda. There is a nice little scene where Eragon and Arya spend the night just talking when they are visited by the travelling spirits. However there really seems to be developing something between them and it should be interesting to see what develops there in the fourth book. Back at Surda meanwhile Nasauda has to prove herself as the undoubted leader of her own tribe at the Trial of the Long Knives where she defeates Fadawar. Islanzadi the queen and leader of the elves is fighting at Ceunon.

Once back Eragon spends sometime bonding with Saphira, explaining himself to Nasauda and Orin, clearing up some old debts, getting hold of a falchion as his temp sword and continuing his quest to know more about his and Brom's past chatting with Jeod. There is also the case of Elva whom Eragon tries to 'cure' or correct the mistake he had made by 'blessing' her, but to no avail. His counter-spell has little or no effect. But Elva seems pleased by the fact has she can actually ignore some of the minor pains. Eragon also now has 12 elves as bodyguards.

The chapter 'Fire in the Sky' at halfway point in the book gives us the mouthwatering action we had been waiting for. Thorn and Murtagh show at the Varden camp along with Urgals that simply feel no pain. No matter how much they are chopped they simply dust themselves off and get back to the fight. The Varden warriors obviously unaware of their 'quality' are slaughter however they overcome them in the end, but many men are lost. Meanwhile Murtagh and Thorn seem as strong as ever. This time however Eragon and Saphira defeat them with the help of the elves but Murtagh and Thorn manage to escape. Eragon marries Roran and Katrina the same day.

Next up, Eragon is sent on a mission by Nasauda to oversee the Dwarves voting of their new king at Farthen Dur and hopefully get someone in favour of the Varden to the throne. Accompaning for the forward journey is a kull, Garzhvog. Once there, Eragon is under Orik's company where he see's the forest of stone. The quabbling for the votes frustrates Eragon and he decides to venture out. It is then that Eragon is attacked from who are seemingly people of one of Oriks opponents. Eragon has a tough time defeated them since theyare faster and more skilled then most dwarves. Orik is incenssed and gets to the bottom of the attack. He very smoothly declares the event in the hall and gets his opponent and his clan bannished from among the dwarves. Next comes the voting and Orik wins. Next comes the ceremony which even Saphira is called to attend and Orik is sworn as king of the dwarves. Saphira also 'repairs' the Isidar Mithrim - the pride of the dwarves.

Meanwhile Roran is reproving himself as 'Stronghammer'. He seems unbeatable as he outrageously flirts with danger but manages to overcome his enemies. In one fight he kills over 200 soldiers single-handed. But he 'rightly' disobeys the orders given to him by his commander and hence when he returns he is punished by Nasauda with 50 lashes by the whip. You might think that that would tame him. You would think wrong. He is off again the day after this time as commander of and army of 50% humans and 50% urgals. An inevitable disturbance follows. One of the urgals challenges Rorans leadership. They duel and guess what Roran prevails. One has to say that Roran is either incredibly lucky or he is Paolini's favourite character in the book.

Eragon and Saphira then travels to Du Waldervarden to complete his training with Oromis and Glaedr. Thats just an excuse though. He ends up as one would have guessed finding about his past and ofcourse getting his own riders sword. What does he name it you ask. He calls it Brisingr and spicing it up when he utters the name Brisingr the sword bursts into flames. Hmm. Anyway, Eragon seems shocked to find out that Brom was actually his father and that Saphira actually knew that. He also finds out about dragons heart of hearts - the Eldunari and how Galbatorix uses them to become as powerful as he is. Morover Glaedr gives Eragon his Eldunari and Oromis and his dragon decide to goto war.

The climax of the book is at the battle of Feinster. This battle is completely reminiscent of the Two Towers of the Lord of the Rings with some Paolini tweaks. Eragon, Arya and Saphira slay 3 spellcasters who still manage to conjure a Shade stronger than Durza. Eragon and Saphira are simulataneously haunted by what Oromis and Glaedr are upto and they happen to be fighting Thorn and Murtagh at Gilead. Galbatorix finally shows up through Murtagh resulting in the death of both the rider and later his dragon. Eragon and Saphira are devastated. However gathers himself toghethr and manges to fight the Shade - mind-fighting that is. Arya recovers after nearly being choked to death and slays the Shade. Thus comes forth Arya Shadeslayer. Yes now theres two of them.

Thus the Varden captures Feinster and then Eragon tells Arya and Nasauda what happened at Ellesmera with Rhunon, Oromis and Glaedr. Thus the book ends...but not the cycle.

I cannot wait for the next and what looks like the final installment of the Inheritance cycle.

Take a bow Christopher Paolini.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Navoi Bolshoi Ballet - Gala Medley Ballet Performance

Date : 01/08/2009 (mm/dd/yyyy)
Venue : Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA - Mumbai

The Novoi Bolshoi Ballet accompanied by the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra from Uzbekistan performed for the first time in Mumbai and i was lucky enough to catch them for a ticket price of just Rs 400/-. I would describe it as one the most beautiful performances ive ever seen ; a treat both for the eyes and the ears. The mind was quietly resting...

It was the first ballet performance that ive attended in my life so i was understandably a little at loss at what was going on. On top of that it was a medly of stories, half of which i hadnt even heard of. Anyway, the performance started with 'Laila and Manju' so an obvious Indian connection was put forth there. It was followed by 'Swan's Lake' with the unmistakable and utterly beautiful Tchaikovsky composition. The meaning of the phrase 'no words to describe' was quite clear after the performance. Next came an excerpt from 'Spartacus' when Spartacus was just leaving for battle and wishing his lover to send him away with her most beautiful and best wishes.

On this note we went into a small break.

Not surprisingly they had saved their best for after the break. The first performance was 'Raymonda' followed by an excerpt from 'Romeo and Juliet' and lastly 'The Nutcracker'. Now when they changed stories was really hard to tell. In 'The Nutcracker ', the woman who played the Sugar Plum Fairy (i think) completely stole the show. Hers was the performance of the evening and she was given a thunderous ovation after the performance and was congratulated by the organisers; or what i think were the organisers. These two gentlemen were then presented with bouquets and niceties were exchanged. Thus the show came to an end.

It was an amazing experience for me even though i was seated on the very last row almost on the left corner. I would'nt think twice before visiting another ballet (if the ticket costs Rs 400 or lower). It was a dance ideal for the music both simply graceful.

There were however two lessons i learnt from this:

1) Avoid medley ballets. In order to truly enjoy a ballet and watch the performers recreate a story in the artistic way that they do, watch a performance portraying just one play/story. Ofcourse a medley has its own beauty, but it dosnt do justice to any of the stories.

2) Do a background read of the performance so that you have some idea of what exactly is going on and thus you will enjoy the performance even more.