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A List Too Short

On the one hand, I am not a fan of condensing almost two decades of reading (Yeshu Christu I am getting old!) into a list of a few books. On the other hand, it is a good opportunity to reminisce about all the great and not so great books I have read and also to introspect about what books have really influenced me. I think it deserves more than a short Facebook post and hence this blog (I have an exam tomorrow which is always a motivation for me to do something else, so why not something creative!)

A chronological order seems the best to do so. It is unfortunate that a lot and it is really a lot of books that would not be part of this list because of sheer paucity of this list as well as of my memory. I mean no disrespect of course and I might come back and edit this list if I feel I missed out on something significant. I am hoping to make a list of the books that have shaped me the most and will be describing why. There will be spoilers of course so tread carefully if you will.

1. Explorers on the Moon, Herge –  My dad reading Tintin and Asterix stories to me with different voices for different characters is one of the most delightful memories of my childhood that I have. My love for reading has to be attributed to the many stories I heard from my mom and grandmother as well as my dad insisting that I read a paragraph of something before he reads out the rest to me. I include Explorers on the Moon to this list because the first paragraph in it with the suspenseful panel where Tintin and co are still out cold and Earth control is nervously waiting for any sort of response from them.

2. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens – I think I have never got around to reading the unabridged version of this book but I still remember the anguish I felt while reading the abridged version when I was 7 or 8.  The death of character after character who were important to David, “Crorkindills”, Peggotty, Uriah Heep and the Micawbers are some of my most vivid memories about this beautiful book of love, loss and eventual happiness

3. The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas –  Swashbuckling musketeers, swordfights, treacherous evil villains, gold, revenge, how can this book not captivate an imaginative boy! “One for all and all for one”, the evil machinations of Cardinal Richeliu along with being confused (still am confused) about how to pronounce D’Artagnan (as well as pretty much everyone with a long name), frustration at his youthful jumping into everything idiocy, reverence for Athos, admiration for Aramis and a feeling of camaraderie with Porthos are the things I remember most. I read Man in the Iron Mask much later but despite being a really good book do confess to not getting the same rush from reading it as I did with The Three Musketeers

4. Valley of Fear, Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite characters of all time and I will defend him over the various “cerebral” oddities of Agatha Christie with my life. To be honest, I loved the many short stories of Sherlock Holmes more than the novels. The Adventure of the Dancing Men, Lion’s Mane and Speckled Band are my three favourite short stories among them. I am not including short stories in this list for the obvious reason of this list never finishing. In case of novels, it was a toss up between The Valley of Fear and The Hound of the Baskervilles for my favourite Sherlock Holmes book and this wins out mainly because of the frustration I felt at pronouncing hound rhyming with wound all the frigging time! The tense atmosphere throughout this book is something I hated and loved at the same time.

5. The Prisoner of Azkaban, J K Rowling – I include this over Goblet of Fire despite loving that more because this is the book in the series that I read first (I read in the order 3, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7, yea I know I am a weirdo :P)and thus got me hooked into the wonderful world of magic, muggles, wizards and quidditch. The movies after part 3 were terrible just fyi.

6. Foundation and Empire, Isaac Asimov – The GOAT of science fiction writing in my opinion (of course, this is my blog duh), Asimov’s Foundation is possibly one of my favourite series ever. The sheer scale of the stories, the magnificent concept of psychohistory, Daneel Olivaw, the Mule, Gaia, so many wonderful memories from this series! I list Foundation and Empire because again I read this one first (order of reading 2, 4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 7) and also because the part where Ebling Mis and Bayta Darrell are trying to figure out where the Second Foundation is absolutely spellbindingly  pageturningly tension-filled masterful writing

7. Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien – I am going to cheat here and mention the trilogy here as a single book because Tolkien did publish it as a single book :P. The godfather of fantasy writing, my reverence for Tolkien knows no limits. The fact that he was philologist creating a mythology for the languages he loved to make absolutely captivates me. The scale of Middle-earth, the wide range of strong characters, the wonderful battle scenes which capture the glory and tragedy of war, Gollum and the Nazguls, and the almost countless other beautiful details, Lord of the Rings is my favourite work in fantasy fiction. I noticed a recent trend in consigning Tolkien to a children’s author with the current rise in popularity of the Game of Thrones franchise but that is absolute unadulterated nonsense. Tolkien is basically the guy who invented fantasy and we can disrespectfully disagree over whatever your conflicting opinions about this are 😛

8. Wizard and Glass, Stephen King – This is the fourth book in the Dark Tower series. The Dark Tower series was written by Stephen King over a time of nearly 30 years and it is a masterful work of fantasy. The way in which you grow to love the eccentricities of the main characters and feel a kinship with them, the concept of Ka and Ka-tet, I confess to being absolutely distraught at the conclusion. Drawing of the Three and Wolves of the Calla are also wonderful books but Wizard and Glass is my favourite because of the stories of the young Roland Deschain.

9. Mrityunjaya, Shivaji Sawant – I read the English translation of this Marathi epic and was left wondering how good the original is if it was even better than the English one according to people who have read both! This epic does a magnificent job of telling the story of one of the most interesting characters from it, Karna. Cast aside by his mother, mocked by his brothers, used by his best friend and still strong in his convictions, Karna is definitely my favourite character from the Mahabharatha and this book reinforced that feeling.  With its wonderful poetic prose :), switching points of view that narrate the story in a beautiful way and the obviously gripping story as anything related to the Mahabharatha is, Mrityunjaya is something for everyone’s shelf to read and reread.

10. Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby –  The book that made me realise how good sports fiction as well as a book about a random person with nothing distinctive about him can be. This is the story of an Arsenal fan and I could relate extremely well about how once you are caught up in the football fever, everything in your life revolves around it. The narrative follows a really interesting way of describing life events in terms of Arsenal matches. A must read for all football fanatics.

I am already regretting making this list because of the books that I have not listed! Opinions and comments are welcome 🙂

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Vishu

Be woken up by mom or grandma with a warning not to open my eyes. Be led to the poojamuri and in front of the beautifully decorated place. Be asked to open my eyes and take in the wonderful view. Be pointed out the different elements of the kani (view). Wake others in the house and lead them to the poojamuri. Be given vishukkaineetam by all the elders. Namaskarikyal all the elders. Enjoy bursting crackers with cousins while pretending to be too grown-up for it. Freshen up. Eat pazhamnurukku and kachiyapappadam for breakfast. Visit relatives and extort vishukkaineettam from them also. Sumptuous lunch with everyone and play kazhutha or bluff the rest of the day.

(Stay up all night trying to finish a project which is not working. Doze off in the middle. Wake up to the schematic of the circuit which is giving trouble. Struggle to complete everything and send a quick progress report to the professor. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and meet with professor. Skip breakfast because late for class. Sleepwalk through class because no sleep previous night. Go home. Eat leftover sabji and bread. Sleep all afternoon because dead tired. Wake up in the evening and wonder whether to go to college again or not. Dinner avilum paalum. Skype with parents. Sleep again)

The Don

After retiring he moved to an obscure quiet village cut off from the rest of the world. He liked to relax on his porch sipping the local wine and eating smoked pork. Occasionally he joined the kids playing in the dusty ground near his house. The kids are always dazzled and ask him how he does all this magic. He shrugs and tells them that he used to play with some rather decent players long back. He goes home and glances at a box in a corner with a few memories of his previous life. He dusts off the box and the medals and photos transport him back in time to when he played with some great players whom he was fortunate to call friends. A time when he was part of the gang that conquered the world with what everyone called beautiful football. A time when he mesmerised the world with his magic with the ball. A time when he was called Don Andres.

An Idiot Abroad

Apologies for the most copied ever of all titles! But yeah, now I am an idiot abroad, to be precise in the US of A. Circumstances and a gigantic amount of luck has led to me being a student again. This time as a graduate student. It has been a rather interesting journey so far with its fair share of gaffes and idiocies.

After a heart-stopping weekend in which everything looked to be collapsing around me, it got better and I set off on 8th August to Chicago via Frankfurt. Things that I learned over this flight:

1. Fever and cough are not the best travel companions. I had contracted a bad fever and cough and was on heavy medication the entire week but didn’t recover in time for the flight. So was carrying an arsenal of cough syrups, antihistamines and antipyretics (tbh, I wrote this sentence only because I think anti-pyretics is a rather cool word).

2. Don’t drink Espresso. It is just bitter black water. Being a poor graduate student, I thought I will save 0.25 euros and drink the cheapest thing on the menu. I almost threw up! Finally managed to dump a ton of cream and sugar in it and swallowed it with pinched nose

3. Being a vegetarian is hard. Particularly in non-Indian flights. My connecting flight was United and god my meals were bad! And people don’t ask you what you want, they assume that you are a non-vegetarian and I almost ate turkey and cheese gouda. But thanks to my spectacular English, I realised that turkey meant some fowl play(wink wink) was on and asked for my dues. And was given the coldest sandwich I have ever eaten in my life, almost froze my teeth!

4. Airports are huge places! Frankfurt and Chicago airports had trains running inside to take people from one terminal to another.

5. I should not have watched all those English movies with subtitles on. At first I found the language really difficult to understand. But people were helpful and didn’t shout at me even though I said “I didn’t get you” multiple times.

6. The sun doesn’t set by 7 pm as a rule! Though my geography lessons had warned for this, I was still surprised to see daylight at 9pm

Finally after a long and tiring trip spanning 30+ hours (I had an overnight stay at Frankfurt), I managed to reach my friend’s house where I was planning to stay. Hat tip to the random senior I met at the university who dropped me off at home seeing my helpless situation.

My first thoughts about America are beyond the scope of this article and I might venture on it later. Suffice to say it is big, neat, beautiful, expensive (when you convert everything to your native currency) and polite.

‘Til Later

Poorangalude Pooram Part 1

Pooram is a Malayalam word meaning a festival dedicated to a goddess. And when the word pooram is uttered, the first thought in a Malayali’s mind is the Thrissur Pooram.

With their ridiculously funny tune while speaking, indecipherable slang and wildly eclectic tastes (there are fans associations for elephants), Thrissur, a district in central Kerala is home to some of the most eccentric people in all of Kerala. And it plays host to the Thrissur Pooram, probably the biggest congregation in Kerala after the Makaravilakku day at Sabarimala.

Fireworks, elephant processions, exhibitions, bands (pardon the crude usage but cannot think of an equivalent word in English), drunk people, you name it, the Thrissur Pooram will have it. Despite my mom being from Thrissur, I had not had the opportunity to attend it at all for various reasons, the most important one being that it happens usually in April, which being the month the Delhi government in its infinite wisdom has decided to hold classes.

A short history lesson: The Thrissur Pooram was started by Raja Rama Varma, popularly known as Shakthan Thampuran (the strong king). According to the story, temples around Thrissur were not able to ready themselves in time for the Araattupuzha Pooram, the biggest Pooram in Kerala at the time. They got debarred from the festival as a result. Shakthan Thampuran, angry at this, decided to start the mother of all Poorams in Thrissur with the Parmekkavu Bhagawati and Thiruvampadi Bhagawati as the presiding deities. The festival happens annually on the Pooram naalu (star sign) of the Medam month (according to the Malayalam calendar) and is held in the presence of Lord Shiva in the grounds of the Vadakkunnathan temple.

IMG_4569 Well how did I finally manage to witness it? I had landed in Thrissur for some bank-related stuff on Friday morning. Having no return tickets for Sunday led me to extend my stay in Kerala for one more day. By a rather fortunate fluke, it was the Thrissur Pooram weekend. Urged on by my grandmom, I went to see the sample vedikkettu (fireworks) that night. I had been hearing about how good the vedikkettu is all my life from my mom. And to be fair, it was an understatement. The sheer power of the sample vedikkettu blew me away. And I was promised by my cousin who was my guide that the actual vedikkettu is even more impressive. My mind was made to see the complete Pooram. The rest as they say is history.

The next part will describe my journey. Keep your eyes peeled folks, if nothing else there are more awesome pics like the below one by @ashwinhari.

thrissurpooram

Allegory

I and my sister had a fight once. We started shouting loudly and were thoroughly “enjoying” ourselves. In the middle, I impulsively pulled her hair and she started crying loudly. Another cousin who saw this immediately called my Dad who pulled us apart and gave me a good scolding.

Mom was not present at that time as she had gone for shopping. When she heard about our fight, she immediately became angry and started scolding me. She threatened to revoke my computer privileges. My grandparents came to my defense that though we fought a lot, this was the first time that it had escalated to physical violence. This angered my mom further and finally I ended up losing my computer privileges for 3 weeks instead of the 2 days that I usually get for being at fault.

When asked about it, she informed me that me fighting in front of my younger cousin as well as protesting my innocence were all bad mistakes. My grandparents shouldn’t have defended me either though it was beyond my control. Also it turns out that my other relatives had heard about this from said cousin and laughed at us thereby embarrassing my family.

I stopped talking back when I realised that it might further anger her and lead to more punishment. So this is my last post for some time.

PS: This is how I understand how the Suarez biting “scandal” plays out in my small world

Incompletepostitis

Rejoice mortals, I am back.

I was unfortunately suffering from the common malady among aspiring bloggers called incompletepostitis. Every time I try to write something, I was reminded about the 4-5 incomplete posts lying in my drafts folder. I would flit in between them and end up completing none. With the well-being of my million followers foremost in my mind, I took the momentous step today of deleting all of them.

Mankind has surely lost some precious literature into the unseen corners of the interwebz but never fear, it is a minor compensation for the slew of posts that are about to grace the WWW inside the borders of istheurlavailable.

Once again, rejoice, the winter might be coming but not now. The good times are upon us 😀

What do I say?

A pen in my hand,

I stare at the book,

The pages blank yet,

No ink marring its beauty,

The pristine plainness,

The white stillness,

Happy it should be.

But a trace of sadness I sense,

As it speaks out,

Asking me,

Begging me,

And imploring me,

A story,

A few lines,

A few odd words,

At least a dozen characters,

Anything to cure its dullness,

The cheerless colourlessness,

The sad loneliness,

But I bow my head,

And murmur my meek apology,

For impotent it is,

The pen in my hand,

As I stare at the book,

Its pages blank yet.

The Spree

Judging by my Google as well as my Twitter status updates, the more perceptive of my followers would have probably guessed that I am on a reading spree now. It is something which strikes me every now and then when I go through an inordinate number of books at a rather quick pace. In the last 10 days I have read 5 books, not bad eh? Arrogant !@#!@ you might be thinking, but what the hell :)!

I was going through a rather lean spell in the reading department when I decided to buy two books at once. They were Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre. I was actually going to buy only the former paying heed to the dire warnings by ICICI about the state of my funds but when I saw that Flipkart had increased the minimum amount for free delivery, I thought what the hell and ordered the other too. And that opened the proverbial flood-gates. A lunch at a nice hotel opposite our house finally led me to step into the hallowed premises of JustBooks clc. I had been giving the place a wide berth relating to the aforementioned depletion of funds but once I went inside, there was no escape.

For the uninformed, JustBooks clc is a lending library with a host of plans for different types of readers. It has a very large collection of books and all the books are beautifully maintained. They also have a very modern system with RFID cards for the members and similar tags on the book jackets.  After going in, I couldn’t wait to go back as the Jeeves omnibus Vol 3 and Silmarillion were too hot to handle in my hand. I took the plan for 200 Rs, by which I could borrow two books at a time. There was a joining fee and a refundable fee. The best 1.5 k that I might have spent in recent memory, I might add.

I will try to give a short review of the books that I have read in the span of the past few days, hopefully a post a book and hopefully something that might lead you to one of these books all of which I quite enjoyed.

’til Later

Hola World

And I am back. Just like Sherlock Holmes was presumed to perish at Reichenbach Falls but was brought back after relentless pressure by his devotees, my blog almost dead after Dudhsagar Falls is back in the blogosphere after constant pressure from my followers (Read: my alter-ego Readerman, he is really devoted). This self-enforced exile was not anything related to anything. It was just a patent lack of ideas or inspiration to write anything, what people better than me have called Writer’s Block.

Life has been relatively smooth in the interlude, and the occasional speed bumps rendered no more damage than a night in a Kerala SRTC sooper fast bus on the Bangalore-Kozhikode route. The job chugs along about fine, learning new stuff and having a lot of fun and arguments with my colleagues as well.

I will be back with a proper block, sorry blogpost now that I have rid myself of my block. Or so I think. Let us wait and see, though Readerman, my only subscriber better be ready for a deluge of mails regarding new posts in the coming few days.