Monday, May 30, 2011

Cyber Language

Here are some cyber language which could go for cybernetics. Well, almost.I hear this everyday in the train to work when crushed from all sides and looking at the roof of the train and panting for breath, I can do no more than listen.

Sending emails:

Put email
Give email
Send email
Take email

Copying to a CD:

Burn CD
Put CD
Cut CD

Printing a file:

Send to print
Copy to print
Take out print.

Thinking something along these lines, are you? Then comment. You know that thing about great minds thinking alike.

Still in a Kerala State of Mind

Yesterday's post (which appears below) was written from a deep despondent state. I wasn't myself. So, please ignore the post. I have written it when I feeling particularly low. After all, I am here amn't I? Back to blogging.

Here's a picture I clicked of my brother-in-law's house in Kerala, which is a beautiful one, surrounded by abundant greenery, sort of a trade mark of Kerala. (Twitterers must have already seen this, in which case, sorry!) Though rains hadn't come the greenery is omnipresent. I am still in a daze after my visit, which is usual. The things I heard, experienced there overshadow me and my mind goes blank when I am back to Bombay. Will take some more time to get into the groove of the big bad city. So, be patient, till I get this out of my system.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Little Analysis of My Social Media (Writing) Position

Now that I have cut down on Facebook and twitter, I find myself a stranger wandering these forbidden domains (employers have blocked them). I devote only 15 minutes to write replies to comments. I have felt a corresponding fall in the number of comments on my statuses also. Confess I am not that popular on networks. They are good media to catch up with friends, if you are the friendly and popular type. Somehow I have a feeling it hasn't worked for me. Though I have friends in countries far and wide I feel there is no sincereity in their frienships. They say "Hi" if only I say "Hi." I am amazed to find that overnight my account on ryze.com has come to a standstill because I am not active there. Likewise my Orkut account. If you don't wish or write an update, they don't. They have become like modern relationships - one based on what one can grab, for grabbing's sake.

So I thought a little analysis is in order. I social media worth it in terms of the time and effort I expend on it. Is giving me return on investment, or, is it eating away time I should divert to other productive activities? We live in an age of mutiple media. The following is my social media presence as of date:

Facebook  : 1300 friends
FB Page   : 270 friends
Twitter  : 270 friends
Ryze      : 300 friends
Linked in : 300 friends
Digg      : 200 friends
Stumble   : 100 friends
orkut     : 200 friends
Feedburn  : 200 friends

Total     :3,140 friends. Not bad I suppose. There are more, which are minor networks.

I confess I am a bit of an agressive networker on these media becuase basically I was focussing on creating an audience for my writing. I have sent requests to writers and people who may be interested in writing and willingly added whoever requesed for a membership, unless the person looks like he could be trouble. I am in searth of an audience for my writing. And my writing is for the most part experimental, sort of muscle-flexing-exercises so that I could discover a voice in the middle of my musings and maybe mature as old wine. 

Is it happening? I don't know. But I will remain in this space, come what may.

Friday, May 27, 2011

How Being an Anthropologist Helped Amitav Ghosh...

In this article, one of my favorite authors Amitav Ghosh says how his Doctorate (PhD) in social anthropology helped him in his writing. It's a subject close to my heart. I wish. I wish.

I remember about twenty years back an anthropologist had come to live in Artist Village where I live. One day after work I shared an autorickshaw with her (since autorickshaws were rare in those days). She said living here was "very rough". She didn't say "tough" she said "rough." It was a rough place to live in those days: there were no proper internal roads (I wrote letters and got this done), for mail we had to go to the post office and sift through the entire village's mail (I wrote to the Postmaster General and got mail delivery started), electricity and water supply played truant for days and once, for a week (I couldn't do much in this regard).

Such was life in Artist Village in those days. Nowadays life is - hopefully - better, but, still, I can't be a dispassionate judge. I live too much near it to judge. Architects have admired the design by Charles Correa, but people living there have had to face hardships because of the poor execution. The result: we all broke down the old structures and built our houses anew with multiple floors. They may look like concrete monstrosities compared to the graceful old ones. One learns to adapt and go along.

I have digressed. I have waffled.

I have often wondered why people in Bombay haven't integrated, a good anthropological question. Why Bombay, why haven't people of India integrated. In Artist Village the Malayalis were the first to start a local Malayali association. This association has had its share of fights, coups, coup d'etat, and stayed together, managed to, rather. The Bengalis started their own association, the Punjabis their own. Though we all lived in Belapur we were a diverse and compartmentalised lot, with very little interaction with other people. A good anthropological question that begs an answer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lauren Beukes Wins Arthur Clark Award for Book Zoo City

Zoo City written by South African writer Lauren Beukes has won the UK's Arthur Clark prize according to this article in Guardian blogs. Zoo City is a story set in Johannesburg and beat many other science fiction writers (including one of her constant nemesis Ian McDonald) to win the award. Speaking at the award ceremony Beukes said, excerpt:

"I had a speech prepared and it was curse you McDonald," she said. South Africa, is an "an incredible place to live ... and write about", she added. "It's really where science fiction is. It's in the developing world, it's first world, it's third world – the way we use technology is different to the way it's used elsewhere. This book is about magic and technology and it's very special to be here."

Hm. First world and third world in one. Sounds familiar? Applies to India, too, I guess.

Howlarious! Trivia: A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

This is sure to make you howl! I did! I got this from Manjula Narayan who got it from Ranvir S. Just look for a pun, or, better still make an anagram. Then it strikes you as very original.The pleasure is mine, er, of Manjula and Ranvir, too.

Did you hear about the glass blower who accidentally inhaled? Now he's got a pane in his stomach.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles , U.C.L.A.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

The batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat miner.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia : The LAN down under.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

Acupuncture: a jab well done.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Bombay Hustle - God, What They Sell, and All

I am back to Bombay (scamland) and back to hustling. Not me. The others. Afterall, it is the season for scams. And, death. A man I knew, who lived in the neighbourhood died. Two people, relations of relations died when I was in Kerala.

I don't know how they - the hustlers - came to know I am back. There are these endless calls that make me want to bash my mobile device against the nearest wall. Since I work in the marketing department there are advertising agencies looking for a client, publication looking for advertisements, outdoor advertising contractors looking for new business. I think they all have dedicated call centres to disturb me throughout the day. I swear. I receive so many calls that I don't have time to work. I get behind on my schedule. Bosses get mad at me.

Business is done this way, my friend Dhansukhbhai Jethalal Shah assures me. They need to promote aggressively to survive, otherwise they will fail. Either grow or die. Every new business fails in the first five years of operation.

The New Kind of Ad-hoc-ism

I see a peculiar kind of ad-hoc-ism here. Businesses these days don't have the patience to document like they used to. Nobody files papers. The idea of these hotshot-management-types-who-quit-at-the-drop-of-a-hat is to quit before records are asked for from people who care about documentation. They are aggressive in pursuing marketing and sales targets and depart leaving a mess in their wake. The whole organisation suffers and a whole lot of effort goes down the drain. This is the new kind of ad-hoc-ism.

EMAIL HUSTLING

There are endless hustling on email too. They fall into the following categories (I like to categorise things, you know).

The Nigerian Scam

These scams operate from close by (mostly by Nigerian illegal immigrants), though they claim to have accounts in Nigeria. The emails are badly written (which is your cue to ignore them), badly punctuated, giving off whiffs of scams. But some people fall for the millions offered if you just send your address and your bank account number. They just need a few thousand dollars as a processing fee before they transfer the millions to your account. If you agree, you can say goodbye to this processing fee. Your processing fee is their revenue. Like a dog that has been kicked, you sit and nurse your wounds and are reluctant to tell anyone about the trauma you went through.

The Beautiful Young Girl Scam

This scam could have been effective when I was a youth and still unmarried. What can it do when I am getting on in age and experience? So how do I respond to a girl who is beautiful, simple, god-fearing, fun-loving, etc. She sends her picture also. But everything is so suspect that you wonder how people fall for these scams. Soon as they know your bank balance and financial position, they go after your money. Don't believe the siren who sends pictures and say they love your wrinkled mug shots. Hm.

The Au Pair Scam

 Of this scam I have written before here.

The Multi-level Marketing Scam

I have expounded, waffled about this here. (Same link as above.)

Just mentioning it here so that you are aware.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Books on Our Shelf We Would Like to Read, Had We the Time

How many books do we have on our shelves waiting to be read? Many I suppose. Me too. Mea culpa. I have a shelf full of the most desirable books I would like to read, if I have the time.

 

So agrees Italian writer, philosopher and critic Umberto Eco in this piece in Guardian.

 

"And yet I've a fairly accurate notion of what I haven't read. I have to admit that I only read War and Peace when I was 40. But I knew the basics before then. The Mahabharata – I've never read that, despite owning three editions in different languages. Who has actually read the Kama Sutra? And yet everyone talks about it, and some practise it too. So we can see that the world is full of books that we haven't read, but that we know pretty well."

Monday, May 23, 2011

More on the Mundu!

Continuing my saga on the Mundu. I guess, by now it is obvious that the Mundu has no competition as far expressing moods are concerned. The trouser doesn't come near it in self-expression. The various moods can only be described as multifarious. Disclaimer: all in jest, not to be taken seriously, and pliss to be kind to a writer of droll humour. I tried wearing a Mundu only on this trip to Kerala and loved it. From now on I will be a die-hard promoter of the Mundu, it's brand ambassador, so to speak.

Mundu held at both ends parted in the middle

It's (sheesh!) the husband's invitation to the wife to... you know what. Since the man wears colourful lungis (the casual version of Mundu) at home the mood is already set.

Mundu's hem held from behind while walking

This is a relaxed Malayali, taking it easy and enjoying the verdant scenery as he walks around his naturally-bless state of Kerala. There's nothing like a relaxed Malayali (I am one!), there's humour in every word, slapstick in every action (see Malayalam movies), laughter in every second (as I am now, I hope!).

Mundu worn with nothing above it.

This is the Kerala version of the Varanasi one where naked sadhus dive into the Ganga with only a loin cloth. A Malayali looks imposing with his rippling muscles, his dark well-oiled hair, and dark complexion. His skin virtually shines. Look how he just coruscates in the shine of freshly-applied coconut oil.

This is the best expression I can think of in this collection of trivia. Do comment, please!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Police Superintendent in Kerala Allegedly Gives Contract to Kill Journalist

I am just back from Kerala and here's something else in today's papers - which I scanned on the flight to Bombay - which made me feel weird. Just boggled the mind. I couldn't believe it as I read the news. I know strange things happen in this world, but when was the last time a top official of the police hired a lowly contract killer to  kill a journalist for publishing a story. What's weird is also the fact of how the state is governed by dictats of the police and how this indicates a malady which cannot be dismissed so easily. I think it is the first time such a case is being reported. Pardon my weak memory if it isn't.

In Kerala a contract to kill is given to a gang called a "Quotation Sangham." The term means what it implies. The gang then gives a quotation for carrying out the job, as in any contracts. I think (or, have a feeling) that there is a contract and things are laid down, too. If the need is to maim then they break a leg (a different rate applies), if the aim is to just warn (here, too, a different rate applies). If the aim is to slap a person in public, yes, it can be done, at a separate rate. So the gang gives a quotation and the money is handed over. It's a sick practise and it sickens me to even think about it.  

A policeman, a deputy superintendent of police, according to the case, hired a contract killer to murder a journalist. Yes. DySP Santosh Nair has been arrested allegedly for attacking journalist Unnithan of the newspaper Matrubhumi. Unnithan's fault is that he published a report about Nair attending a party hosted by a liquor baron.

Things must have got rather hot and wild there, as it does most often in parties by the liquor barons.

If the police is too sensitive about being seen at parties thrown by liquor barons, well, the action to be taken is simple enough. Stop attending these parties. Well Mr. Policeman you have been caught in the act. So there!

Ways of Expressing Yourself with a Mundu

As a conclusion of my sojourn to my native land, here's the ways in which you could express your personality through the humble Mundu the traditional dress of my place of birth. These are just written in jest and should be taken accordingly.

The Mundu at full mast

When the Mundu is at full mast meaning worn up to the ankles the wearer is showing his own respectability, his own self respect. When he lowers the mundu on seeing a person he is expressing his respect to the approaching person. You will find him speaking in an odd accent and he is harmless.

The Mundu at half mast

The Mundu at half mast - folded and tied at the waist - is a sign of the wearer's aggression, expressed in typical Malayalam movie style. So be careful of this person, he has ample circumlocutory space to bash up villains and defend his lady love. (Look at how Mohan Lal and Mammooty does it in their films, then you will know.) He is the type who doesn't miss a movie of the two diamonds of Malayalam screen - Lal-ettan and Mamukaka.

The Mundu raised from the waist and tied in a knot in front

Women beware! This is the sign of a man in heat. Rather, a horny man. So unless the man is Lal-ettan (elder brother) himself, run for your lives. If he gently caresses his gene-producing sacks he is twice as dangerous. Such specimens are seen at train stations, bus stations and near colleges. 

The Mundu held in both hands but not tied

This shows the wearer is in a tearing hurry. He doesn't even have time to tie the Mundu. This is the sort who would stamp on you and degrade you with choice Malayalam invectives if you come within hearing distance.

The Mundu tip held in one hand and the thigh scratched with the other

This is a sort of protest lodged with the person in attendance for spreading canards about the person who does the above. Usually this is done by saying "Choriyunna varthamanam parayaruthu," meaning, "don't speak words that make me scratch." If you have said anything wrong, apologise, pronto!

The Mundu tied above the knees

This is the sign of the local hoodlum, the goonda. Run as fast as you can from this man. You will faint (if you are faint hearted) seeing the hair and the striped chuddies with drawstrings he is wearing underneath. He also smells like fish caught and salted and dried.

The Mundu tied below the knees

If it is tied below the level of the knees, he is a honourable person in search of ventilation from the sultry heat. The man is sociable and you can talk to him and get a polite answer.

There's more....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Last Night in Kerala and the End of the World as We Know it

It's a pleasant evening, my last night in Kerala. Sorry, night. Still no rain. There's only the heat of hot muggy nights in Kerala. I have documented certain aspects of my home state in the last few days. Hope you liked it. For now, it's the drone of cicadas, the sound of the Panamkilukki (the money juggler) and the lone cry of frogs awaiting rains to breed. There are a lot of rain flies (yes, they are called rain flies, flying termites that self destruct), kind of moths attracted to electric lights. Rain comes to Kerala earlier than it does to Bombay. This year the rain is expected on May 31, ten or so days before it is expected in Bombay.

These last few days have been satisfying. I gorged on a lot of mangoes and jack fruits without taking care of my sugar level. Ho hum, who cares. I am moderately above the normal level, which means I should take caution.

I look at facebook and it's full of this "Rapture" thing. I look at Twitter and it is also full of this thing. What's rapture, another cult. It seems they are a cult based in America that is predicting that the end of the world is imminent, and the surprising part: it's tomorrow: May 21, 2011.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kerala State of Mind and Earl Ferrer's Book "Whatever Next?"

I wrote in these very columsn about the "Kerala State of Mind." My speech has definitely been affected by the Kerala accent, a bit like the brogue and it will take a few days to get out of the state of mind and the brogue. I call it the Kerala brogue. Most Keralites suffer from it to varying degrees. I don't feel apologetic about it, neither do I feel it as any kind of drawback. A bit of teasing is there, of course.

Leave alone the Brogue, there's another affectation of Malayalis that I must mention here. It's the staring, open-mouthed look. You encounter it everywhere. In bus stations, in train stations, airports, junctions and side streets. Here the streets are so narrow that a driver has to be careful not to dash against a gate or a boundary wall. The look is on most faces everywhere you go. "There's no polish in speech or behaviour" says a relative. As I write this a drunk is shouting obscenities in the middle of the road in front of ours. The impression created is one of being thrown into a modern society of connectivity and consumerism without being prepared for it. Malayalis have discovered the world but not their own homeland. 

Today I went to book a train ticket with a relative. Thank God for the trains. Otherwise, this country would have been a big mess. I am not saying trains are perfect, but compare them with the pathetic state of the bus stations and the bus services. Yes, the Brits gave us trains and the unique systems that maintain them. Imagine the trains if they were run like the state transport buses. Imagine the confusion, the running to catch buses parked in remote parts of a bus depot. The despotic and despondent bus drivers and conductors. I came away disappointed my mission unaccomplished. Therefore I am taking a flight back, flights are much better organised though they are expensive.

Hm. Happenstance the annual holiday, planned three months in advance has been a nightmare much more or less than that of a runaway train. Nothing goes according to plan. Read the ticket fiasco I went through in a post below.

Hmph. Here's an account by Jeffrey Archer about the launch of Earl Ferrer's autobiography "Whatever Next?" Earl Ferrer was an heriditary peer (In Britain part of House of Lords is hereditary in nature, here it has been made hereditary. A major difference.) in the House of Lords during which he was minister under 4 prime ministers including Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stranded in Kerala

Ah, such a silly mistake. I really don't know. Am I getting old? I would deny this charge vehemently. Yes, sir! There is this feeling that one has failed to keep up with the internet generation. That one is stranded. One is bereft and left lonely in the fight for digital supremacy. There's a weird kind of disquiet. 

Disquiet. Nice sounding word. What happened was like this. I booked return ticket online (Oh such joy! I didn't check it closely, assuming it was for 18th May. When I checked it today, I had the shock of my life. The date showed 18/6, that is 18th June. Panic. I didn't know where to look, or, what to look at in front of wifey, all ready and steady to make a move back to home turf. Not that Kerala is not home turf.

As everyone knows tickets aren't easy to obtain to a trip to or from Kerala. I blame it on an apathy bordering on carelessness from the authorities. (Look who's talking.) Kerala's railway system is antiquated and it doesn't have too many trains running for such a money-order economy. The money order migrants (I will call them MOM) need to see their grandparents once in a year and this hardworking lot are finicky about tickets. 

I being one of these MOMs had booked tickets (being computer savvy and all that) but failed to check the date printed. I was in my own private world. Don't know I am like that only. I only saw the date and didn't check the month. Today, the day of travel, I packed, dressed and checked the date. Alas, alack! It shows the journey date as 18th June. 

Damn! WTF?

So it's again to booking ticket in tatkal (temporary) and travelling two days later. What the heck, it's home turf again for two more days.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kerala - Fast Route to Development

The news chief minister (designate) of Kerala says the state is on the fast route to development. How can it be? This seems like a chief minister on steroids, or, the local brew to be sure. Since I am Christian and Oommen Chandy also happens to be Christian I shouldn't say this, but what should be said should be. I believe it to be so. Most of all concerning Kerala I am in no minds. The state that churns out so many talented workers, supervisors and managers have a dismal record of fairness and development inside its own borders. The big palatial bungalows aren't built with any per capita income of their own. It's all cheque/moneyordered from abroad.

Employment generation in the state is abysmal. Next to nothing. Except for putting out so many graduates and giving them training for an year or so, the state doesn't do anything much. 

Case Study 1:

Anita is a teacher. She draws a salary of 1500 a month. She can hardly meet her commuting charges to work and back on that amount. She earns nothing. What is she to do? There aren't any jobs to be had in Kerala.

Case Study 2:

Mukesh is a welder in an automobile workshop. He needs money to try for a job in the Gulf. But he can't manage that money, which is something like Rs 50,000 and all he earns in a month is 2,500 as a welder. He is frustrated and takes to drinks. There ends his dream of going to the Gelf. His boss tells him (rather chides him) he is lucky to have a job.

Case study 3:

Prema is a nurse in a hospital. There is so much corruption in this sphere too that Prema works for free. No, not for free, she, in fact, pays the hospital a thousand rupees a month to work for them. She needs the experience to get a job in the Gulf. Nobody would employ her without experience. 

Study these studies (as they say in management jargon) and decide for yourself what goes on in Kerala.

A Rainy Night Full of Thoughts, Reminiscence - Imperialist Hegemonists and All That

It rained yesterday. Nightly rain, building up tempo like a slow drum roll turning into a crescendo of sounds of chattering leaves, dripping eaves, emptying bogs, dripping lamp posts, dancing rain drops on palm fronds. Brought back a lot of memories, a flood of them, fresh as a blossomed flower, melting away the present as only monsoon memories can.

There's a freshness in the monsoon air, stirred by a lazy wind. There's also winds of tragedy. Bro-in-law's neighbour died in Dubai of a heart attack. While the Gulf is a dream for some, it's a nightmare for some. It's the season of deaths and I don't know what is responsible: globalisation or global warming.

Anothnybhai is of the view that globalisation and global warming are the same. 

"There's no difference," he says self righteously. "One is about, no? getting more and more people under the slavery of the imperialists, the other is the by-product of this imperialism. What, no, men?"

He is right. In a manner of speaking. Yes.

However, Kuriachen Kuriakose (the god-fearing Marxist) begs to differ. He is (condescendingly) uninterested in globalisation because according to him globalisation is nothing but colonisation in a different garb. According to him the result of globalisation is "betrayal of the struggle of the working class to be paid for not doing anything in exchange for their labour." According to his warped thinking the working class has a right to be paid for their leisure because of the exploitation they suffered under the hands of the bourgeoise. He is of the view that exploited call centre executives should deliberately under-perform and not meet the targets set by the hegemonist imperialists.

He is also right. 

I don't know whose side I am on.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Nokku Kooli" and "Money for Nothing and Chicks for Free"

Final leg of my journey in Kerala. The heat is at its height, the world smolders. There has been sound of thunder but no rains. There are a few scudding clouds in the sky, but when it rains it is only a few drops.

There's greenery outside my window. I am at a brother-in-law's place and mercifully there's air-conditioning. I love to bask in this artificial cool-ness at times. I surf the net from my Reliance data card which has a good receptions here. A stupid virus keeps opening the Reliance site's homepage without any prompting from my side. It's irritating. How many times have you come away from a spot of surfing encountering such mind-altering behaviour? 

The world seems a long way away as Kerala is in the throes of an election result announcement. The television blares the result as a bro-in-law states that the newscaster hasn't moved his backside the entire day. I say that he must have moved it when they showed the frenzied mobs dancing the streets. There's excitement as I have never seen. Ever.

People love politics here. It's really linked to their genes I think. I have an idea, a thought, perhaps. I think Communism became popular in Kerala because of the state's history of caste exploitation. The higher castes did everything to keep the lower castes from a decent livelihood. Now somehow the reverse is the norm.

I heard about a custom (call it a practise, if you may) called "nokku kooli." Simply stated it means that when cargo is unloaded in the ports by cranes, the labourers there have to be paid a compensation (for their service not being used for unloading). "Nokku" means "seeing" and "kooli" means wages. So the word means wages for just looking. What happens is that when the cargo is unloaded they just have to be there to see it and they have to be paid depending on the weight of cargo unloaded. I think Kerala is the only state in the world following this stupid rule. Ask anyone. 

That's "money for nothing" and "chicks for free." My father in law was in a village committee that oversaw distribution of some livestock in villages. Some chicks arrived for distribution and the village bully came and took them all and had it with his nightly tipple. 

Such is life in Kerala. "Money for nothing" and "chicks for free."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Dynamics of Laziness and Indolence - Victory for Some, Defeat for Some

I don't know what to think the sweeping verdict of the electorate in the recent state elections on Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam. I am in Kerala now and the mood is upbeat. The chief minister who lost - V.S.Achuthanandan - says that the UDF's is a marginal victory with a marginal majority. That sounds like sour grapes. The fox is cunning too. He will come back as the wily politician in V.S. knows. Oommen Chandy looks to be the next chief minister. So, Kerala is going to have the second Christian chief minister after A.K.Antony. Good. They worked hard. The BJP didn't get any seat. Bad for them.

I am at my brother's home in Kochi. On the way here as the hills dipped into valleys and waterlogged plains converted into rice fields I thought of the changes brought about since my childhood. They tell me rice cultivation is at a standstill because labour rates have gone up to Rs 400 (around $ 10) a day (high by Indian standards). So the common farmer can't afford to cultivate his land. Therefore fertile land is wasting away, encroached by water hyacinth and wild tubers. Labourers, besides, get rice at Rs 2 from a populist government, so why bother to work for food? I see development turned on its head and laziness being rewarded, people being driven to drinks and dissolution.

"I'd be more frightened by not using whatever abilities I'd been given. I'd be more frightened by procrastination and laziness."

Said by Denzel Washington. He is an actor I admire. He has shown his mettle in "Fallen" and "Courage under Fire." Yes, I am frightened by not using whatever abilities I have been given. The labourers of Kerala who work so hard when they are in the Persian Gulf and in Bombay are lazy bums when it comes to working in their own state. (I am scared these comments would be takens as anti left. No I am not anti- or pro-left. I have taken political sanyas log ago.)

As I was driven here I saw a lot of victory buntings along the way. Then in the night I saw Cochin Tuskers lose to Punjab XI in the Indian Premier League. Bad for Cochin Tuskers. They didn't have any good bowlers and the Punjab XI batsmen had to so easy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Summer Day's Idyllic Thoughts

I am staying at my wife's house in Pathinamthitta district, which
being a farmer's house, is somewhat basic in facilities and amenities.
There is no water. So water has to be drawn from a well at a lower
level and carried up a steep incline. I like to draw water from the
well, the clang of the pulley, the gush of water as it falls into a
bucket, and then the steep climb. I feel my muscles flex and the
tendons straining, good to keep the body flexible and in shape (though
I have the inherent Mallu paunch.).

I shave in the open, watch the cow being taken to graze in the field,
the playfulness of the hens and rooster. The rooster in our house is a
debonair guy. He has under his sway the hens of the neighbour, and he
rules his roost with a stern uprightness manifested by his red cap and
the red growth under his lowerjaw. He looks manly, sorry roosterly,
and he emphasises the fact by bullying the hens. He has to be forcibly
brought back home from the neighbour's brood.

The courtyard, where I spend most of my time, is filled with activity.
Insect - both deadly and harmless - abound, a gekko runs tentatively
towards me and backs away. There's the smell of ripe jackfruit under
the tree where I sit. Light and shade play on me as I write this. The
dog house is being used as the chicken coop as there is no dog. Sound
travels from the opposite bank across the rice fields, fallow lands
now leached and left uncultivated. A new house is being built since
the old one is crumbling and the smell of freshly sawed wood hangs
about the place.

There is imperfection (as far as I am concerned, but I make do with
some adroit adjustments) and still perfection as only a local can
bring about. For a city dweller all this is fun and for the local it
is sort of routine.

Today I am going to my house which is in Kidangannoor (now rented
out), a remote area which is looking up with the announcement of the
Aranmula International Airport. Land cost is shooting up, the rice
fields are being converted into the longest runway in the country. A
sleepy village will transform in a few years into a bustling airport.
Modernity will touch the countryside. Already the rural areas resound
(no, not with the panchavadyam of temples) but by the noise of cricket
scores and Malayalam movies, broadcast 24-hour.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Travelling on Second Class Sleeper, a Traveller without a Territory of His Own

We entrained at Panvel and I didn't know the travails of travel would
catch up so soon.

There was this need to define territories and borders, a lot of
perambulation around the

compartment, a lot of opening and closing of large bags. A man had a
tought time managing his five children. I felt sorry for him. Managing
one is such an ordeal, imagine having to cope with five. Some ordeal
this! We are bad travellers and don't plan our journeys, as was
obvious. Women with children were the most miserable. one had
odd-shaped underwears slung on the lever that holds the seat in place.
An assortment of bottles and tissues were resorted to, to keep the
young calf in good humour. She screamed all the while, a
disconcertingly piercing scream. Reminds me my son didn't scream when
he was small and we took him on holidays. But not children are also
differently enabled. I must remember.

People were finding their territories and defining them. Territories
that existed only in the mind. One was keen on using up all the space
available for his huge suitcases and a hundred small packets all of
which - I found later - contained snacks. My ticket was still under
reservation against cancellation (RAC) and therefore I didn't have a
seat to myself. All I had was a seat - no 39 - I shared with another
man. He had the right sleep on the seat at night, while I only could
sit on the seat. That was the arrangement. It's summer holidays and
these type of adjustments were quite common.

A man with a huge suitcase came and told me to vacate the seat I was
occupying since it was his confirmed seat. The way he asked for it was
quite rude as if he was willing to fight for it. I said he can sit
beside me and that at night I will let him sleep. "No," he says, "you
vacate the seat now." I become quite angry at this, being already
disturbed by the heat. I shout back, "I have a right to sit here. What
do you think?" Though I am a pacifist, I was willing to fight for my
rights for this piddling instance. I also didn't like the tone and
tenor of his voice. I dislike bullies. I have stood up to a lot of
them though it has made me unpopular. I don't mind being unpopular at
that.

Then wifey interferes. She has a similar shared seat with a friend's
wife who is travelling with us. I share their seat for a while.
Effectively I am without territory in the compartment. The sultry
afternoon is passing by in a scene filled with nostalgic green. I gaze
at brick and mortar houses, cattle sheds, bullock carts, winding
roads, the brilliant summer sun caught in the opalescence of
chlorophyll-filled leaves. A sense of liberation overcomes me as I
stand at the door of the train enjoying the passing luxuriance, the
essence of rural life which is fast becoming extinct in preference for
cities.

Then I talk to the man who had evicted me from my seat. I realise his
misadventure of the morning. He had taken a rickshaw from Bandra to
Kurla and in between the rickshaw broke down. By the time it was back
on the road and they reached Kurla the train had left. They then
engaged a taxi to Panvel. The taxi driver brought them on time to
entrain from Panvel but charged them Rs 400 more. He was in quite a
dither, so he had shouted at me. I shake his hand and assure him that
I didn't mind.

Then I become quite liberal and let him take my seat and he, his wife
and his young daughter take the side seat while I loiter near the
door. I usually travel by air-conditioned but I wanted to test the
sleeper class as my friend's wife was also travelling with us. The
romance of travel can only be experienced in an open compartment where
you can actually see the passing scenery through the open windows. I
had travelled thus in my childhood from Bombay and I realised it
brought back to me the long-lost romance of travel.

Travelling in my childhood was by steam engines. The steam was
generated by feeding coal into a furnace. So actually it was a coal
furnace engine and when it came near it resembled a beast with the
hiss of steam and the hot crackling of coal in the furnace. Some of
the coal escaped from the furnace and if I put my hand outside the
window there was a steady rain-like spattering of hot coals on the
hand. I became darker than I am after the two nights and three days I
spent in the train and my friends in Kerala would have difficulty
recognising me when I arrived.

Those were the halcyon days! These are the troubled times. Computers
are used to book tickets (we used to stand in queue for three days to
buy a ticket in those days), however there still is a shortage of
seats. There are a hundred trains and all of them go full to brimming.

(To be continued...)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Off to Kerala for a Weeeeek! How Travelling Was Then!

Pardon the misdemeanor in the "Weeeek!" above, a bit carried away because today I am embarking on my annual holiday to "God's Own Country." One thing that promoting Kerala as a tourist destination by Amitabh Kant was that people in the north came to know there is a state known as "Kerala" in India. Otherwise the entire south was "Madras" and whoever came from this region was a "Madrassi." Hm. I hear that Amitabh Kant who first launched the "God's Own Country" campaign when he was secretary of tourism in Kerala has moved on to the CEO of Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation. Good for him. He is a good and dynamic public administrator and we need more people like him. 

Just finished packing and was checking the PNR number to see if the reservation has moved from Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC) to confirmed, when I thought about blogging this. No, it hasn't. But at least I can travel. Tickets are hard to get in the summer holiday season. Wifey has a slight fever and that's a worry. 

While packing I remembered the days when from our little flat in Chembur - after the final exams were done - we would pack and wait eagerly for the taxi to take us to Dadar station or Victoria Terminus from where we would entrain to Kerala. Our friends would gather around us as we would be missing each other for a month at least (Alas! these days holidays are only for a week!). There would be joy when the taxi arrived and we would take a ride in a taxi (a luxury then) to the station where the sound of the porters and the engines warming up, the clatter of rails, the anxious people on the platform, the announcements, would be so much different from our daily routines that we would be all agog at what was going to happen. Would we get a seat? Will the train leave without us? Would this metal snake really take us thousands of kilometres to our beautiful land, all that. There was a joy in returning home. The joy of the migrant which only he knows. 

Kerala held a different joy altogether. Summer was the time mangoes and jackfruit ripened. Also cashew fruit and pineapple, and our house was a cornucopia (at least, I imagine so) of these things. For us famished city children this was like a feast of summer. Then there was the endless playing of cricket and football with improvised balls made from palm fronds. Marble games too. Those were the daze!

Wifey is calling. So I have to go. No time for childhood reveries. Bye till the next post from Kerala!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Unhappy Marriages in Literatures and Books

Heard of unhappy marriages in literature? Here's Guardian's books blog about unhappily married littérateurs. 

What really distinguishes an ordinarily bad marriage from a truly terribly one is the lengths to which those involved are willing to go in their unhappiness. Madame Bovary is an early archetype of the genre for this reason. Emma Bovary's response to a loveless union is the opposite of settling down with some needlework and making the best of things; there is a laudable extravagance to the way in which she sets about causing her own destruction, fitting in two failed affairs, bankruptcy and a lingering suicide before the marriage is over. Of course, being married to Charles Bovary might tempt anyone to knock back the arsenic – he is one of literature's great boring husbands, and Flaubert excels in anatomising his dullness. This is a man who never aspires to anything beyond eating a lovely piece of cheese and falling asleep. The contempt bred by familiarity is perfectly articulated in a passage in which Emma has grown so sick of Charles that she's angered just by seeing his back as he snoozes: "even his back, his tranquil back, was irritating to behold, and in the very look ... she found all the banality of the man."

The love of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath is legendary for their numerous fans. When both husband and wife are writers, there are problems with egos and bad vibes in marriages, so one assumes. So who writes good novels about failed marriages? It seems Richard Yates. Don't know the guy. Guess I have to brush up on his works. 

Hughes and Plath had a very tenuous marriage marred by Hughes' mistreatment of the sensitive Plath. In India Dom Moraes was once married to the most beautiful Leila Naidu. (But then Leila didn't write.) But they split, re-united and then split. I see Leila these days advertising gold jewelry in Kerala advertisements. Guess we Mallus need good looking women from North India to attract customers. Joking.

Other famous literary marriages in India, um, let me see... Can't think of any. Because affairs between writers have been many, but marriages there are none. The literary community is a whole lot promiscuous, but it stops at marriage. The reason being that writers can't stand each other as husband and wife in the bedroom. I am just thinking aloud. They can have affairs but not marriages. But the heart of a writer does seek some soul to share one's works with. However, it can turn out to be a nightmare when two people come together who think alike.

Amen! 

Rain, Happy Holiday to Me!

Internet and Facebook friend Chris Dickerson has this interesting poem on Facebook Notes that resonates with a lot I feel when it rains like it does in Bombay. In Bombay rain means buckets, more buckets, even more buckets. You wonder where all the water comes from and then you remember it was a damp marshy place before the Englishmen reclaimed it. What's wonderful about Dickerson's poem is that he intersperses it with a favourite song from yesteryears, "Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain." I just loved that song when I was a boy and I still love it and sing it. Wonder where all the loves of my life have fled. Maybe, to matchbox flats with hairy beasts for husbands. Never mind. 

"The only girl I care about is gone away

 Lookin' for a brand new start

 But little did she know that when she left that day

 Along with her she took my heart..."


That said about Bombay rains, can't believe another year has passed and the rains are here again, well, almost.I can see dark clouds in the sky. Once again there's the feeling of newness of fresh clothes, new books, and tiresome days in classrooms (which I hated). Rain reminds me of school and homework. The sultry days where there wasn't any football or cricket but the endless cheeping of cicadas in the night and wetness. We didn't have television those days and the only option was to read whatever came into the hand. And nothing came sometimes. I was like an animal hungering for books and stories. There would be competition for the few books we had. So I read a lot of Readers' Digest from a friend's house. That's how I got my modest understanding of places and history. 

Of course, rain makes me sing. It makes me sing tunes from olden songs, sung by people who are no more. I still love Guns and Roses "November Rain" and the Jose Feliciano number, "Listen to the falling rain." There were many other songs I loved to sing. Songs of love and longings which came evocatively in dark days when the clouds would obscure the sky.

Tomorrow I am embarking on a journey to Kerala, my native land. I was born there. It's a land of plenty of rain, rivers, canals and waterlogged paddy fields. I will post pictures on Twitter which will be carried on my blog. I may not be online as much as I would like to as it is a small village in a remote area where people aren't that modern in a worldly sense. So pardon my absence from blogging. I need this break. Happy holiday to me and to you!  

Saturday, May 07, 2011

What If You Have Been Slapped by Google's Panda

Heard about Google's Panda update? It's a slap to those who have lots of links of their blogs and sites. I had innocently opened up my blog for comments and found that I had done the wrong thing. Search Engine Optimisers (I was an SEO once) took advantage and pasted all their back links on my blog without my knowing it and it became too cumbersome to remove them.

The result? My page ranking went down on google despite my best efforts.

Not to worry though. I have a good ranking on Technorati (a trusted site for measuring blog effectiveness) which is as follows:

Overall world ranking: 16743


Entertainment world ranking: 2280


Books world ranking: 591


The last is what I am concentrating on, being a writer and all.


Meanwhile here's Ramon Ray's article on what to do if you have been slapped by Google's Panda.



Blogging on Books

In a world flush with books I thought blogging about books was easy. No, it isn't. Descriptions and reviews of books are hard to come by. I had to search online quite a lot to get material to write about them, ensuring the poor writer some mileage. May articles aren't full reviews but pointers to reviews with an attribution and a back link. Albeit a drop in the ocean, in a manner of speaking. 

Nowadays newspapers ignore books. Only a few carry book reviews. Why bother? India ranks seventh in the number of books published in the world. Then why aren't book reviews and good books available. Reason: space for books is shrinking because sales aren't happening. Sales aren't happening because there aren't any book shops. There aren't any bookshops because people don't read. 

Please, please, teach your children to read and write. Otherwise our country will be a country of morons. For the past few days I saw a man in train - reasonably well dressed - reading Chetan Bhagat's "Five Point..." I don't know the full title. He was pointing to each letter and moving his mouth as he did so, something we did only when we were in primary school. This is good! At least, he is reading something instead of listening to pirated music on his cell phone.

Friday, May 06, 2011

New India Foundation's Seventh Round of Book Fellowships

New India Foundation invites application for the following, according an article in OutlookIndia.com. Details here. Excerpt:

Fellowship holders (who are paid Rs 70, 000 a month) are expected to write original books that contribute to the fuller understanding of independent India.
The Foundation is ecumenical as regards subject and genre. Books could be about politics, economics, or culture, and may take the form of a memoir, a work of reportage, or a thickly footnoted academic study.
Applicants should send a c.v. , a book proposal and a writing sample of at least 5000 words to:
The Managing Trustee, 
The New India Foundation, 
22 A Brunton Road,
Bangalore 560025

I would like to say that my book is politics, economics and culture combined. But the "thickly footnoted" part jars. Is that part of the foot-in-the-mouth, something, something? One wonders.

Crazy Man, Nobody Is Perfect, and Touch Me!

Of all the slogans I have written about on this blog, this one stands out. A guy came to office wearing a pair jeans inscribed with these lines:

"Crazy man."

Tell me what I should say. I can't think of anything tongue in cheek for this. This is it. It is stupefying and dumb. This is something that makes me want to puke, want to grab the man by the shirt collar and haul him to a dictionary and read the meaning of "Crazy" assuming he doesn't know.Another tee-shirt reads:

"Nobody's perfect. I am nobody."

Agreed it's a smart thing to say. If you are nobody how can you be perfect?

Haven't they been overstepping the limit, the limit of decency. A girl's tee-shirt reads:

"Touch me."

Nothing wrong except that it is written across the breasts. Does she realise that this could lead to problems? In India solicitation is a criminal offense and this could (possibly) be considered as solicitation. Tee-shirt art shouldn't overstep the limits, according to this blogger.

Your Life Is on Surveillance by Run Keeper

Your body isn't personal anymore. There's a software called "Run Keeper" that can keep track of your daily activities and send reports and graphs about how you sleep, how you exercise, well, how you anything. Awesome isn't it? Someone said nothing is private anymore. That's why terror acts won't succeed because nothing is beyond being found out. So this is actually the middle ages with its morality taboos. Ah, we have had a fling with music and promiscuity in the Sixties and Seventies. No more. What you do is public and viewable by anyone online. Just do a search and you will find the most upsetting and obscure of your information about yourself. Hm.

Blogger Loic Le Meur tried this out and the result is as follows:

There is more data that we need to have better body analysis: what you eat (is there an app that I can just take a pic of what I eat and get a calory approx? If yes then it should also open an API and post into runkeeper!) then we need the iToilet to analyze what's coming out of our body. If I wasn't so busy and fascinated with Seesmic and LeWeb I would be working on that exciting new space, it's only a beginning. We should probably measure sex activities too. You guys should read The 4-Hour Body from my friend Tim Ferriss who reports on 10 years of experiment with his body.

iToilet is good idea. Why not have sensors in the potty which analyse your... you know what. Sh*t! Why not have one for sex activities too, or, the lack of it. After all all the entertainers in Bollywood think they should have naked girls dancing synchronously and making orgasmic hip thrusts to sell their movies.

Anthonybhai has a different take, "It's actually making the motions of orgasmic hip thrust and all, men, nothing really happens. Just make-believe, everything, yaar!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Poem about Abbottabad

The following poem written by Major James Abbott about Abbotabad is said to be the one of the worst poem ever written according to The Guardian:

I remember the day when I first came here
And smelt the sweet Abbottabad air

The trees and ground covered with snow
Gave us indeed a brilliant show

To me the place seemed like a dream
And far ran a lonesome stream

The wind hissed as if welcoming us
The pine swayed creating a lot of fuss

And the tiny cuckoo sang it away
A song very melodious and gay

I adored the place from the first sight
And was happy that my coming here was right

And eight good years here passed very soon
And we leave you perhaps on a sunny noon

Oh Abbottabad we are leaving you now
To your natural beauty do I bow

Perhaps your winds sound will never reach my ear
My gift for you is a few sad tears

I bid you farewell with a heavy heart
Never from my mind will your memories thwart

Poor James Abbot. Must be turning in his grave, considering the infamy his town is going through right now.

Book: Happiness and Nabakov

In her book The Enchanter - Nabakov and Happiness- by Lila Azam Zanganeh reviewer Alexander Theroux writes about Nabakov:

Oversimplying the Nabokovian equation, Ms. Zanganeh sees this Russian-American author almost exclusively as "the great writer of happiness." She glances at various kinds of delight and joy in his work, focusing mainly on the theme of love. ("Love—the claire-obscure arabesque of the Nabokovian universe.") In a typical bout of flattery, she holds Vladimir and Vera, his wife, up as a nearly perfect loving couple. Cloyingly she writes: "We know nothing of their private lives. Except that they slept in adjoining rooms. Perhaps he tiptoed to hers. And late into the night, he would look at her, lying naked, supine, gray-blue eyes lifted skyward. Then soundlessly, he would again disappear in the dark haze of his room."

Nabakov was a lepidopterist and couldn't drive. He was a polyglot who could write with ease in English, Russian and a few other languages. He depended on his wife to drive him on his butterfly collection expeditions, the result of which is that he has a genus of butterflies named after him. He was also a snob and a curmudgeon belittling other writers in no mean terms. Another writer remembers sending a gift and a book to be autographed and receiving them back - the present unaccepted and the book unautographed.

So that's one who was one of the most talented writers in the world. The strange world of writing is enigmatic, what shall I say?

My Blog's Book Ranking is 608

There's good news. Earlier I had reported that my blog's book rank was in the top 1000 in the world on Technorati. The good news is that it has jumped further with some concentrated blogging on books and is now 608. Here's proof

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sylvia Whitman's Attempt to Re-Design Shakespeare & Co.

I came to know about Shakespeare & Co. through the eponymous literary group on Ryze.com and now Facebook. I didn't know of its past. But through this article kindly posted  by the moderator Pragya Thakur of Shakespeare & Co. network of writers, I came to know a bit about the bookshop and bohemian beatnik joint that was and is Shakespeare & Co. It's here in this article.

James Joyce frequented it, so did the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Ernst Hemingway browsed in its modest portals. What could be more sacred space for a writer? Nothing, really. It may be disorganised, chaotic and mismanaged, but who cares as long as there are books?

It seems the bookstore was the home of itinerant writers who used to live, sleep, read, and, sort of, vegetate in its book-filled environment. I can imagine what would it do to a city such as Bombay. Oh, forget it. If you browse books in Bombay you get the bum's rush. "Leneka hai tho lo, kali pili book padh ke timepass nahi karneka, kya?" or "Kya sab gyan muft me chahiye kya?" These are a few of the thousands of Bombay's insults which also forms a part of my forthcoming novel. 

His daughter (Sylvia Whitman) wants to re-design the bookshop but the old man (George Whitman) goes around showing an employee what to change back to its original state. I say long live George Whitman and his ilk!

Hat tips: Pragya Thakur for the link.

Old man, rest in peace!

Another death. A neighbour. I had written about the deaths that were occurring one after the other. Then, yesterday when I was going for my morning spell of badminton, I noticed a few people standing outside the door of a house similar to mine. There was something odd about the way they stood. A silence, as if for someone who died.

Yes. The silence spoke of death as silence does. Mostly. One of my neighbour, it was, that death beckoned. I don't know his name. He may have been around his sixties. I never spoke a few words with him. We used to see each other when we were out walking and I would think of something cheerful to say (in Marathi) and when he came near he would turn his face away.I wondered at this strange behaviour and was a bit offended. Was he a religious bigot. A Matha-brandan (religious-maddened person), as we say in Kerala? I decided not to speak to him at all. (The Englishmen I worked with in Saudi Arabia used to do that, especially Peter W. He was my boss. When I would come face-to-face with me around the office and around the project on which we were working, he would turn his face away. I would think of saying "Good morning" and I would see the head turning, turning in the opposite direction. Something personal? Is it my body language? Is it something else? Some hygiene issues [You know the English know about our back-washing habit forming part of our morning ablution. They are the wiping sort. We both detest the other due to this cultural difference. But that can cancel out each other, can't it?] Be so kind as to elaborate.)

Now I think it was some personal disappointment that would make them do that. They were in some deep mediatative state about some problem. Some block in their minds that wouldn't go away, something not superficial but touching a deep chord. Peter W. became very sick after those episodes (with malaria) and became a white wraith of a man.The above neighbour also had his reasons, I discovered through wifey, which follows:

He had two daughters. Both were married. The elder one's husband abandoned her. The reason was, you won't believe this: he wanted a daughter son (I confuse genders) and the woman gave him a daughter. He abandoned her and married another woman. Aside: I think my father should have committed suicide when he had three daughters in a row, before this blogger was born. End Aside. The daughter came back to live with the old man bringing along with her her daughter, a beautiful little girl. The man was broken in mind and body. His walks were intended to get peace, but peace never came. His looks were full of a secret despair which he never told anyone. He never could. He passed off in his sleep.

Old man, rest in peace! Sorry I couldn't speak to you and understand your problem. I must go sleep some to wake up to another futile day.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Question of Writers' Quotes: Post Osama

The following quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. has been appearing all over the net and in social media apropros of the death of Bin Laden.

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

However, Seth Abramovitch, writing in gawker.com has his doubts, which seem valid enough. He feels that the first sentence is completely fabricated, because King Jr. hasn't seen or experienced any deaths totalling the loss of thousands of lives.

The opponents of the above quote have their own quote of dubious origin attributed to Mark Twain (trust the social media to be schizophrenic):

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

Turns out it was actually said by Clarence Darrow, not Mark Twain.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Jo Ann Beard's Book "In Zanesville"

Another novel coming from Little, Brown & Co. is In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard. In a review by Martha Woodall, the reviewer mentions the story of two adolescent girls circa 1970 when babysitting was 75 cents an hour. To quote the reviewer:

In Zanesville turns out to be a brisk, rewarding journey through adolescence in the American heartland circa 1970 with the unnamed narrator and her best friend Felicia - "Flea" for short - as our guides.

"Being a teenager so far hasn't gotten me anything beyond period cramps and nameless yearning, which I had as kid, too, but this is a new kind of nameless yearning that has boys attached to it," 

The pair of girls navigates teenhood agonising about boys and the pains of growing up in the seventies.

"My mother's own bras are large quilted things that I used to think were funny. Now when I see them on the laundry table, one cup folded into the other, I have a sense of impending doom. It's like being on your way to the Alps and knowing that when you get there you'll have to wear lederhosen."

Much as I like American novels set in the sixties and seventies when Erich Segal's Love Story became a hit and John Updike made his appearance, I would love to get my hands on this novel, providence willing.

The Obama Limerick

The Obama Limerick

Once there was a president named Obama
He was after a man named Osama
Both shared the letter "O"
With a sexy Bollywood star named Bebo
Of whom handsome Saif Ali was the Beau.

Gerard Donovan's Debut Book and What I Call "Screen Circumcision"

What happens when your first novel is gently criticised for being religious and conservative and also about a rash of sex assaults in Dublin, Ireland? Gerard Donovan's debut novel is about all these and more and a reviewer writes that the story is "Marred by its telling." I do understand.

Understand the author's perspective. He spends days and months and years putting together a novel for a critic to demolish it in a few words. How inconsiderate! As a writer I feel apprehensive. That what makes me defensive about my work. If anyone demolishes my work (on which I am working at present)... well... beware! Don't tell me I didn't warn you.

My novel is in its third edit. I guess writing on a laptop has its disadvantages. You get what I may call "screen circumcision". I mean the precedent and the aftermath is hidden when you are concentrating on 780 by 40 pixels which is what a standard laptop screen is in most cases. You get astigmatism of a digital sort as you can't go back and forth. Your mind is blind to a little wandering and cross checking of events.

All this you realise when you take a print out of your novel. Ah! There are glaring mistakes there and you set out to correct and edit. Which is what I am doing now, with the printed pages of my novel. Writer's need to beware of "screen circumcision" which is a dangerous thing for a short story or a longer version of it.

What the Books Say about Vasco Da Gama

Historical books portray Vaco Da Gama as a benevolent sort of man, the sort that would fit the description of a grandfather. At least, that's what I thought when I read in books about this pioneer who discovered the west coast of India for Europeans. However, here's a contrary view on Maddy's blog:
 
Vasco Da Gama is considered by many to be a great navigator, a shrewd leader and a diplomat in history books. But was he really that? Did he have a violent streak? If you dig deep into history books, you will find that he indeed had a violent streak and this was exhibited many times, though it was all far away from home and in trading lands, especially those he subdued with the power of the gun. This unlettered though crude and many a time sadistically violent sailor was nevertheless loyal to his king and proved fearless until his death. By today's legal yardsticks and violence that Europe eschews, he would be rotting away in jails for his actions. Then again this was a long time ago, when might was perhaps, right and where it was proven by the power of a bigger gun and dishonest warring techniques. Vasco was after all, to summarize, as a detailed study of events that transpired after 1497 proves, brutal and single-minded, cunning, rash and suspicious. According to Sanjay Subrahmanyam, the "systematic use of violence at sea" was introduced after the arrival of the Portuguese.

Maddy writes an engaging blog about things historical. Especially the history of Kerala.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Why I Am Not a Big Fan of e-Books

A journalist from New York Times mailed me for a quote on e-books, whether I am for it or against it and the following is the quote I gave her. See if you agree. Was I right, or wrong? Do I see a future for e-books? I frankly think it will be the end of books as we know it if e-books succeed to dislodge traditional book publishers. Tell me, could we use e-book readers in the class room? How many students could afford it? What are the channels for distribution other than Amazon? Many issues remain unanswered. 

The quote:

I consider e-books as secondary to legitimate bound-book publishing. If my novel isn't published by a big established publisher, then I will look at the option of an e-book. The reason is the failure of google books and that good books and novels aren't available yet in e-book format. Traditional publishers have their own distribution outlets and skills in marketing a book. An e-book reader such as Kindle costs a lot of money. It's money upfront. For that money I can buy a hundred books. So why should I go for e-book publishing? 

Besides there is something about walking into a bookstore, holding a book, leafing through it pages that gives a thrill. An e-book doesn't give that thrill. It's made of plastic not textured paper. I am writing a novel and if traditional publishing fails I will go for an e-books edition. I have a day job so it doesn't matter if I make money or not.

Unquote