Thursday, December 29, 2005

A year that was

Let us spare a moment for these people and many such around the world while we are getting ready to welcome 2006. Wish you all a very happy new year. (It is almost pointless / mechanical to wish thus, but what the heck.) Hoping to read good posts in 2006 as well.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Being narrow-minded

Universe is huge beyond our imagination, and mankind not even a droplet in this ocean. (Read more here.) It is a humbling feeling when we consider how insignificant we are. However in everyday life we cannot afford to have this viewpoint. Life is a struggle at each step and you have to be 'narrow-minded' in a sense. (This again is a bit of extension of previous post. My argument for not doing anything simply because I am not the one who has choices will do me no good.)

While thinking this, it struck me that it is somewhat analogous to the case of arguably two of the greatest scientists ever - Newton and Einstein. Einstein might have revolutionized our perceptions about the universe, time, dimensions et al and might have proved Newton's laws wrong (inadequate would be a better word, perhaps); but the activities that usually take place around us are still governed by Newton's laws. [Newton dealt with 'world'ly things, Einstein with universal ones. :)] Newton's laws might be outdated and 'narrow', but they are the ones which rule our lives mostly.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Chores, Illusions, Probability and some thoughts

I hate to do small chores. Usually, when a ‘to-do’ thing props up its ugly head it is not urgent. As I trust explicitly in not doing any work today which could be postponed till tomorrow, my list of to-dos keeps on growing. It might be as big as taking care of my car or as small as adding some features to my blogs, if it can wait then wait it must. But one fine day, I realize that things are getting out of my hand and everything around me is un-organized. Very diligently, I plan out my entire day (usually Saturday) as I did this time. At the end of the day, I was exhausted after driving for couple of hours, lifting heavy furniture, spending three-four hours assembling it, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry; but satisfied that at least a major part of my to-do list has been taken care of. The next day, Sudhamshu asks me why I don’t have links to my other blogs on Viprashna. Actually, this is something which was back of my mind for a long time, but for some reasons it was at this particular time when it was to materialize.

Does that mean it was never really my choice? From the moment this universe came into existence, I was supposed to do these things at a particular time in a particular manner. You were supposed to read these words precisely at this time. If someone rolls back the clock of the universe completely, then all the major or minor events that shaped the universe will take place the same way and everything that you and I did today will be repeated exactly in the same manner. We might appear to change some things, but even that is a small part we were supposed to play. This factor of inevitability reminds me of a story of a small bird, who is scared to death seeing Yama, the God of death staring at him intently. A kind Garuda (Eagle) takes pity on him and escorts him faraway to the Himalayas. After returning back he asks Yama, “Why were you bothering that poor kid?” Yama answers, “I knew his imminent death was written in the Himalayas in an accident. I was just wondering how in a matter of few minutes, this poor bird will make it there. But you solved my dilemma.”

The thought that we really do not have any choice, somehow does not scare me as much now as it did few years back when as an idle teenager, I first pondered over this. I don’t know if it is a state of resignation or convenient ignorance. Einstein famously said God does not play dice with the universe. Different people interpret it in a different manner. The view that appeals me the most is, that sub-consciously even his mind could not accept the fact that there is randomness in the world. It was his yearning to make sense out of the chaos termed as universe that appeared in that great mind’s eye. (By the way, I am not exactly sure, but I feel probability and randomness are not exactly synonyms. Probability is not random. Taking the example of dice, for a small set of plays the rolling of a die might appear random but at some point the probability of all possible options must be the same. So even playing dice is not entirely random, isn’t it?)

I do not claim that these are my original thoughts. The question of ‘Koham (Who am I?)’ echoes through most of the religious literature. The desire to know the past, the future and the purpose of our existence, not just as an individual, but as a mankind are quite old and much has been written about the quest. In fact, our cultures and civilizations are just a part of that bigger quest. Sadly, there are no answers and all religions seem to have reached the conclusion that the answers, if at all they exist, are beyond the realms of human knowledge and understanding. This realization must have hurt our ego as a mankind initially; but over the years we seemed to have either learnt to live with it or have ignored the fact – knowingly and unknowingly – and continued to have lived in an illusion. (This reminds me again of a story of Yudhishthira and the Yaksha in Mahabharata. When four of his younger brothers were dead by drinking the water against the Yaksha’s wishes; he posed four questions to Yudhishthira. One of the questions was, ‘What is the most surprising thing in the world?’ The answer was people continue to live as if they are immortal despite witnessing numerous deaths around them everyday.)

So, everyone lives in an illusion. But no religion seems to ask them to lose it; in stead all the religions demand complete surrender and no questions. Even Bhagavad-Geeta claims that God looks after well-being of those people who completely surrender themselves to him without thinking anything else (ananyaschintayanta mam ye janah paryupasate, tesham nityabhiyuktanam yogakshemam vahamyaham). The dominant reason behind this might be a somewhat justifiable fear that the ‘Doubting Thomases’ might take over and there will be anarchy. The other reason could be the realization that who we are to distinguish between the truth and the illusion. What we consider truth now could just be another illusion.

Friday, December 16, 2005

India: a nation or a country?

Few events occurring in India in the last month or so are enough to indicate that we still have a long way to go to have an identity as a nation, even after over 58 years of independence. It may be or may not be right to drop our ex-captain from Cricket team so unceremoniously, but the fact that the whole controversy has taken Bengali versus non-Bengali turn is very disturbing. Some of the comments published on open forums like Indiatimes blogs or Rediff are extremely caustic and parochial. This is not a single such incident. I was appalled to read in the news that contestants in various game-shows or talent hunt appealed openly to people from their respective home-states to vote for them. If I am not mistaken, even the Chief Minister of a state asked people to vote for a finalist in the Indian Idol contest.

This feeling of regional identity seems to be pan-Indian (quite ironic, isn’t it?). Interestingly, some sections of people from every community feel that they are not being as ‘provincial’ as other communities, and this is what is hampering their progress. Some of them go as far as in stating that there is a nation-wide conspiracy against their community ‘to keep them down’.

Maharashtrians feel that the so-called ‘outsiders’ have taken over Mumbai and they are left behind in all sectors. Goans feel that if they allow Marathi to be the state-language then people from Maharashtra will take away all their jobs. Bengalis resent the fact that most of the trade in their capital is controlled by the non-Bengalis, whereas ULFA or AGP in neighboring state of Assam claims the same against them. Tamils and Kannadigas fight over the water. The list is endless.

Though by and large the Indian identity is more dominant than the regional one outside India, few of the incidents still show how deeply rooted these boundaries are. To give an example, three new students arrive from India. Seniors duly pick them up from airport and arrange for their temporary accommodation at their home. Imagine their dismay, when these new kids refuse to stay with them only because they belong to ‘different half’ of India and demand to stay with seniors from their state.

It will be too naïve to expect that we will forget all our differences and will consider ourselves only as Indians (or for that matter, just human beings to take it up by one level). The only thing we can attempt is to keep the regional bias to the minimum. By nature, man tends to find someone like him (utpatsyate hi mam kopi samandharma...). Language is just one such criterion. Color of skin, religion, nationality, interests – vested or otherwise, culture, caste, class - so many other things divide us between different groups, and/or bring people sharing common things together.

It is not just a question of regional biases in India; on a bigger scale the question is whether the mankind is ready for globalization in its true sense – not just economically, but as imagined by Tagore (Yatra vishwam bhavatyekaneedam – where the whole world becomes a single nest). The leading cities of the world are not just cosmopolitan in intra-national sense – they are becoming a melting pot with people from all the nationalities. At this juncture of time, soon it will be passé to rue about the loss of regional identity of Mumbai or Bangalore (No, the name change is scheduled to take effect from Nov. 1, 2006 :-)) and the new dilemma would be to preserve their Indian identity. Perhaps, that would bring us tad closer to Indian-ness.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

When a dog bites a man...

Journalism is going to dogs, literally! Please read this article published today in Mid-Day. The so called yellow-journalism seems to be taking over not just tabloids but the reputed newspapers as well and once respected papers like Times of India are going The New York Banner way (Fountainhead) with lots of scandals, gossip and melodramatically concocted headlines.

As a kid, I have heard people advising their children to read editorials from Times of India, if they want to improve their English vocabulary. While that might be still true to some extent, the only thing they might end up learning after reading the paper is what Bipasha Basu likes for her breakfast and how Sachin Tendulkar is the savior of Indian cricket or why he should quit playing altogether (depending on the mood of the writer). The extent of playing to the gallery seems to have gone so far, that it was no wonder the news of Amrita Preetam's death was pushed to some obscure corner and the coverage it received was way less than any other "newsworthy" story like Ms. Amrita Arora spraining her ankle or denying a relationship.

Electronic media is a step or two ahead and in a rat-race of becoming "Sabse Tej" (the fastest) will leave no stone unturned, even if that means barging into I.C.U. to interview the ailing superstar of yesteryears. Thankfully, the vernacular newspapers - at least the reputed ones like Loksatta (Marathi) and Mumbai Samachar (Gujarati), are not getting carried away and are still in touch with the local problems. I hope that's a sign that mentality of our society as a whole is not as crooked as it might appear if one reads the so called leaders of the fourth column.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Back to the front after "Summer of 2005"

Vacation ends and work begins from tomorrow. July 1st was the last day of my internship. After that, July was a month of interviews. I had to appear for two separate interviews, each around 5-6 hours in span of two days. I got accepted from one group towards the end of July. August was mostly spent resting and working on thesis. From Aug 31 to Sept 9, I explored the East Coast - rather North-East America. (and then South-West a month later.) Visited places like Philadelphia, Hershey, New York, Washington, Boston and Niagara Falls and yes, Canada for half an hour. Already, I have seen more places in US than in India - like been to Statue of Liberty but not yet to Taj Mahal, been to Washington DC but not to Delhi and so on.

While flying back from Boston to San Diego, I was scanning through Sky Magazine when I came across an article about the Indian (Native American) Reservations around Four Corner Monument. (It is called thus because four states - Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New mexico come together at one point; the only such place in USA.) I was quite impressed with the article and the photos and noted the names of the places and related information.

Again, after coming home it was resting and rusting for a while. Read some good books, watched some plays and tried some new restaurants. It was back to good old idyllic student life vacation. Getting up late, staying up late in Night either reading a book or surfing on net, having Lunch at 3 pm etc etc. Going to a nearby lake with coffee and a book to read was my favorite activity and the fact that I no longer needed to set alarm in my cellphone for the next day felt great.

I was actually planning a short trip to Seattle and around, and started researching on net accordingly. After a while, I realized that tours to few of the places which I wanted to visit in the surrounding areas like Mount St. Helens were not available. With my paperwork (needed to start to work) expected to arrive in mail any time, and winter setting in I did not have much time.

I was in two minds when I did some initial planning about the Four corners trip. Money and Safety were the two most important considerations. Money because already my three-month stay at home without any job and the trip to East Coast had left my savings a mere shadow of its former self. On top of that, being under 25 does not help while renting a car. Rental companies charge 20 to 30 dollars extra per day. For my 9 day trip, that alone would mean equivalent to a return air ticket to New York or almost anywhere in mainland US. Also since I was travelling alone, gas and lodging expenses won't be shared. In terms of safety, it was bit risky to go the area where cell-phone reception is non-existent in most of the places due to its remoteness and also where temperature varies from 100F/40C during day to 40F/5C at night.

I continued planning and revising my plans for almost a week or so in this state of ambivalence. Planning for trip is fun. It fills me with a strange sort of excitement and pleasure. You have to consider many factors - cheapest hotels to stay, minimum amount of travel involved, avoiding weekends to go to popular destinations. Also, the order in which you visit the places is quite important. That's the reason I decided to visit Grand Canyon at the second-last day of my trip. Had I visited Grand Canyon first, everything else might have paled in comparison. This way, the trip had a nice crescendo throughout. Again, initially I was planning to drive from San Diego to Chinle, Arizona with stop-over at Phoenix and come back via a different route i.e. Grand Canyon - Las Vegas - Palm Springs, California - San Diego. But then comparing the expenses of gas and staying up an extra night at Phoenix amounted as much as air fare to Phoenix with 350 miles less to drive one way. Also thought that going to Las Vegas would be completely out of character with the nature of this trip, and hence dropped the idea.

The argument in favor of the trip (in my mind) was I won't get another chance like this once I start working - the vacation that I can muster will almost entirely be used for India trip (and even though I won't mind taking a vacation without pay and going for a road-trip, my boss most certainly would considering the workload). This was the right moment in terms of money, time and interest. I had to travel alone because those who could afford did not have time and vice versa. Apart from time and money, I don't think going to deserts and Native American Reservations would feature in top spots of spending vacation for many. The argument against it was money and somewhat a feeling that I have not done anything great to treat myself for two back-to-back long vacations.

But then heart won, all the arguments aside and I convinced myself with Mark Twain's words. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

In the end, it was probably the most memorable vacation for me. I was alone for nine days but never lonely. As I said, it is not one of the most favorite tourist destinations (of course, except Grand Canyon) and since I was travelling during the normal weekdays, there were not many tourists around. The rock formations, the seemingly endless desert with no sign of any human life around- often I felt as if I were in the wrong Millenium or on the wrong planet. I will need to borrow words from a poem by Ravindranath Tagore to describe how I felt during the trip. I am quite aware that I cannot possibly imagine and use these lines the way Tagore experienced, but lesser mortals like us can only use the ability to quote which is said to be servicable substitute for wit/genius. (Again a quote :)) So with the risk of sounding pompous and preposterous, I would like to say in my own tiny way -

Jabar diney ei kawthati baley Jena jai- Ja dekhechi, ja peyechi tulana tar Nai

(When I leave let these be my parting words: What my eyes have seen, what my life has received, are incomparable.)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My new blog

Decided to start one more blog to publish my photos. You can check it out here

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

All the world's a stage

While in New York couple of weeks ago (This sounds like I am a frequent visitor, but it was my first visit), I watched The Phantom of the Opera. Though I missed few words in couple of songs from this musical, I liked the whole experience. This Sunday, I went to see another Broadway play The King and I at San Diego civic theatre.

What impressed me most in both these plays was the excellent use of technology and the vocal range of the actors. I was vaguely aware of terms like Bass, Baritone and Soprano; but not exactly sure about them. Found this article on Wikipedia which explains them in detail.

Marathi theatre started with musical plays sometimes around 1800. These plays and the songs in them were hugely popular. Apart from the entertainment, many plays like 'ekach pyala' and 'keechak-wadh' successfully sent out strong messages of social reforms to the masses and helped the independence movement. But I think, circa 1940 modern techniques like Brechtian plays and na-natya (could not find the English equivalent for this - when translated it literally means no play) became first more accepted in the intellectual circles and then more popular. I have read many articles by authors who in their childhood and youth, experienced the golden age of Bal-gandharva repenting the fact that not enough was done to strengthen Sangeet Nataks (musicals) while embracing new things. Broadway musicals and Kabuki survived and prospered, but not many local theatres (Yakshagan being an exception, thanks largely to Dr. Shivaram Karanth and to some extent Tiatr in Goa).

While watching these plays and listening to the songs, I dearly missed the good old Natya-sangeet. Though one could still listen to the old songs, it is almost impossible to regain the lost glory and experience.

Thankfully Broadway, San Diego has a number of good plays coming up within next few months like Wicked, Mamma mia and The Lion King. I was in two minds whether to purchase a season ticket which would be good for five upcoming plays except The Lion King having already spent a fortune on these two plays, but then decided to go for it after hesitating for half a minute.

While writing about the theatre and plays, I must tell about the Blue Man group. (I wonder, why it is blue man in stead of blue men). Again, I watched it sitting in the very first row in New York. Initially, I found it little bit weird but then liked it later on. These guys are absolutely terrific. The show itself is a combination of music (from rock to PVC pipes), some animated tricks and involving audience. First few rows are equipped with plastic hoods. At the end of the show, my hood was covered with blue paint and pulped bananas. Here is a link if you wish to watch some of their videos.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

'Darkness at Noon' and 'For whom the bell tolls'

'I don't approve of mixing ideologies,' Ivanov continued. 'There are two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community - which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb. The first conception could be called anti-vivisection morality, the second, vivisection morality. Humbugs and dilettantes have always tried to mix the two conceptions; in practice, it is impossible. Whoever is burdened with power and responsibility finds out on the first occasion that he has to choose; and he is fatally driven to the second alternative. Do you know, since the establishment of Christianity as a state religion, a single example of state which really followed a Christian policy? You can't point out one. In times of need- and politics are chronically in a time of need - the rulers were always able to evoke "exceptional circumstances", which demanded exceptional measures of defence. Since the existence of nations and classes, they live in a permanent state of mutual self-defence, which forces them to defer to another time the putting into practice of humanism....'

-- Taken from the chapter 'The Second Hearing' of 'Darkness at Noon' by Arthur Koestler.

I took two books with me to read while travelling to East Coast. (which proved to be a wise decision, as I missed my first flight and had to wait for 5 hours to catch the next.) The first one was 'For whom the bell tolls' by Hemingway and the other 'Darkness at noon.' I did not have any idea about the subjects of these books and did not imagine that they could be related to each other in a strange way.

Both the books were published in 1940. In 'For whom the bell tolls', Hemingway portrays the struggle of left-wing group against the fascist forces during the Spanish Civil war. The protagonist is an American fighting for the Republican army.

'Darkness at Noon' on the other hand is based on infamous Moscow trials in which Stalin 'purged' the party and the armed forces. This book has many paragraphs, like one given above, which could very well apply to what is happening now.

Rise and fall of Communism could be considered as the most important event of 20th century, barring perhaps the two World wars. I was thrilled to read two great books which revolved around its two opposite facets.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Independence day function, Mangal Pande and some snaps

1. We celebrated Independence day at SDSU. As usual, there was a Power Point presentation about India, folk dances from each state, patriotic songs and few short speeches by Indian Professors on campus. All in all, a good event. Here is a photo taken with my room-mates, Ameya (in black) and Aditya (in white) standing next to me at the function.

2. Also watched the Mangal Pande movie in the evening. Okish, not as good as Lagaan. A funny thought crossed my mind - It would be so ironic, if after watching a movie in which the protagonist revolts once he finds out that the cartridges use cow and pig fat, few members of same nationality in the audience have had beef/pork dinner in the Steakhouse across the street. So much has changed in 150 years.

3. Returned the book Zen and art of motorcycle maintenance to library without completing it. I usually do not like to leave any book mid-way, but this time I had to return this book within a short time and for some reason could not concentrate while reading it. Found it interesting initially for a brief time, but then later on found out that same thought is stretched across numerous pages. May be, will complete it at a later date. Also got few of the classics now that I have loads of time and started with For whom the bell tolls by Hemingway. Went to a quiet beach with my favorite Frappuccino and read it for few hours. I am supposed to work on my thesis, but these are last days of California summer :)

4. August 16, 2002 : I reached US for the first time on this date. So over 3 years now. I had a habit of kind of pseudo-retrospecting on such occasions and then kicking myself for not achieving anything worthwhile. I recollect that feeling when I turned 14. I was bit sad that 20% of my life is over and I have not done anything worthy. When I turn 25, may be I will think that best part of my youth is over and now my middle-age has started. But, now I feel I am not so significant to think along these lines. While thinking in this way might inspire someone into action, I know I won't change a bit. So why worry?

5. Got some further supporting data regarding my post Outsider and Insider on this blog ( San Diego Union Tribune published results of survey conducted about Immigration from Mexico. While the first generation immigrants oppose stricter measures, considerable majority of second generation immigrants feel that there should be more stringent conditions placed.

6. Some photos from trek :
First two snaps are from 10-mile trek at Mount Laguna, with what Thomas Hardy might put as 'Gray of the purest melancholy' all around us. The next three were taken at Torre Pines State reserve with my friends Aditi and Anuj. The last one shows the toll taken by time on my hairline :)

Monday, August 01, 2005

A week-end well spent

This week-end was great. Friday started with a confirmation of full-time job and ended with a great dinner in Downtown San Diego. Sadaf, the Persian restaurant served great kababs and excellent white wine and with the company of close friends; it was just parfait.

On Saturday, went to watch Acura Classic Tennis tournament at Carlsbad with my roomies. Having an Acura helped - free Parking.

The first match that we watched involved Shikha Uberoi - an Indian American who decided to play for India. It was a keenly fought match which she won in three sets. The sizeable Indian section of the crowd - mostly of Electronics/Computer Engineers, vociferously supported her. Sania Mirza needed not much support as she easily defeated her opponent losing only two games. Her ground strokes were accurate and powerful.

The day was great, so we went to beach in the evening and then for another good dinner at California Pizza Kitchen - one of the best place for Pizzas. Came home and finished reading Angels and Demons till 6:30 a.m. The book is ok, may be because one tends to compare it with Da Vinci code. Slept for three hours of Sunday morning, and then went to Torre Pines for hiking. There were three-four trails along the beach which were great. Hiked for around five hours and then went to our friend's home who has bought a 65" flat TV to watch Bunty aur Bubbly. Okish movie. Not so great.

I had simulation for my thesis work running on my laptop throughout the weekend - so there was no guilty feeling while enjoying. Got the expected results,too.

Why did I write this? I actually don't like blogging routine events. I don't consider my life so significant or interesting to write about it in detail. For the same reason, I gave up writing daily diary which I started when I was 11-12. But this week-end was different. I recollect my boring weekends of first two years in US, when we did not have car or internet connection/TV at home or enough money/information to go visit places. The next year was worse, when at least one week-end per month was spent at job to meet deadlines and rest of them doing chores and feeling monday blues. This break from work is refreshing to say the least. Somerset Maugham once defined Ideal life as - Good friends, Good food and a sleepy conscience. Well,it was not exactly that way but ideal for me nonetheless.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Plays and food for thought

I drove to Los Angeles on Sunday to watch two Marathi plays by Suyog - "Ethe havay kunala prem?" and "Appa aani Bappa". The first one was a light comedy about various stages of marital relationship. The other play Appa aani Bappa was a classic. Two great actors - Vikram Gokhale and Dileep Prabhavalkar portrayed two friends who had worked together in a farce over 40 years only to part ways after a misunderstanding.

It was worth driving for two hours each way (130 miles or so) to watch these veteran actors perform. Not just the play, but the whole ambience transformed me back to good old Mumbai theatres. Those bells ringing before the curtain goes up, that divine smell of coffee and batata-wadas and close to 500 strong crowd. For a moment, it was like a play in Deenanath at Parle. Theatre is a fascinating medium and I guess, no matter how many dimensions we add to movies; theatre will retain its charm.

Interestingly for both the plays, I was sandwiched between a Kannada family from Pune on my right and a Gujarati family from Mumbai on my left. People speaking Kannada, Konkani and Gujarati watching a play in Marathi in an area dominated by Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico. Last Sunday, it was turn of my Turkish and Korean colleagues to watch Sarkar in theatre with us.

I trust, this pot-pourri of cultures is the most interesting thing about Mumbai and California. I actually have a personal record of having food from seven different cuisines (Swedish, Indian, Persian, Chinese, Mexican, Greek and Hawaiian) for seven meals in 3 days (no wonder, I weigh close to 75 kg). I could go on and on, with this thread to belabor my point of how variety is the spice of life and how globalization is bringing different cultures closer, but then I have to leave for a Japanese Sushi n Tempura fair. Man, how I enjoy not working and sitting at home doing plain nothing!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

आषाढस्य प्रथमदिवसे

Thursday July 7 will be celebrated as Mahakavi Kalidas Din. It is because as per Indian calendar, it is the first day of Aashadh month. His epic Meghadoot starts with following lines :

आषाढस्य प्रथमदिवसे मेघमाश्लिष्टसानु वप्रक्रीडापरिणीत गज प्रेक्षणीय ददर्ष
I am not sure of verbatim meaning, but it describes a black-coloured cloud, which Kalidasa thinks looks like a spectacular elephant ready for playing.

Sigh! I miss the Mumbai monsoon

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Of that lamentable company

I was not aware of Tagging till Sudhamshu book-tagged me. I am answering the tagging questions the way he has. Unfortunately, among my friends I only know Sudhamshu who is a regular blogger. As a result, I won't be able to tag anyone further.

Here I go:

Total no. of books I own : around 400-450
Except 3-4 books in English and couple in Sanskrit, rest all are in my mother-tongue : Marathi.
Of course, I haven't counted technical books and story-books for children. [I have still kept a few for nostalgic reasons - like the ones I was gifted on my 6th birthday or for topping my class in Second standard : this is some kind of success, I must add, I have been unable to enjoy in my adult life :)]

Last book that I bought:
Can't name just one, as I went to Ideal book depot at Dadar, Mumbai and bought around 15-16 books which I had enlisted in last year or two. It won't make much sense naming them here as all are in Marathi.

Books that left lasting impact on me:
Of human bondage - W. Somerset Maugham
The fountainhead
Aahe manohar tari (Though it is pleasant) - Suneeta Deshpande
Baromas (12 months or round the year) - Sadanand Deshmukh (Sahitya Akademi award winner)

The other worth mentioning are collection of short stories by Maugham like East and West, Lord of the flies, all the Jeeves and Psmith collection by Wodehouse, Exodus, Animal Farm by Orwell and Mother by Maksim Gorky.

Unfortunately, I started reading English literature quite late in my life - at the age of 22, so I am still a novice in that. Some books in Marathi like Vishakha, Vyakti aani valli and Poorv-rang left a lasting impression on my mind.

I recollect reading Poorv-rang (travelogue about East Asian countries) when I was in 5th or 6th standard and getting the feeling that I have read something great. I guess that was the transition point in moving from Kid stuff to Serious literature. Though, Poorv-rang by no means is the best work by Pu. La. Deshpande and though I came across many other classics later on; it has a special place solely because that was the beginning. This was the time when Languages, first Marathi and then Sanskrit, became my most favorite subjects at school. Before that, Maths was the most favourite subject and looked like no other subject would appear more interesting.

Currently I am trying a little bit different approach. I read two or three factual or non-fiction books. One was India Unbound by Gurcharan Das on Indian Economy since independence till post-1991 Economic reforms and another Pakistan : Eye of storm by Bennett Jones. My guess was that I won't be able to read the first one with the same interest as novels. But I was wrong and it made an interesting reading.

The other approach is reading critical essays in Marathi. Of course, I made sure that I have read majority of the books of the author, whose work will be the subject of these essyas. It really makes a good reading because, having read the works of author, the critic gives you an additional dimension to understand and enjoy his work. Usually, he also would point to certain references which might escape in casual reading.

A good critic draws your attention to various other books which have a similar point that he is trying to prove. ( - so you know more names of the books worth reading, or at least giving a try). I discovered couple of good books this way, which for some reason did not enjoy the success they deserved and mostly would have remained unknown to me.

There is of course, whole another branch that deals with this scientific study of art. The books that I am reading right now are Himwantichi sarovare by Da. Bhi. Kulkarni and Saundaryanubhav by Prabhakar Padhye. I was initially bogged down by words like Existentialism, Logical positivism ( that too, explained in Sanskrit-nishtha Marathi) et al but then slowly things began to make sense (or so I think). Now, when I re-read the old books; it is with more insight and try to find some things that could have escaped before.

I wish I had same perseverance with my studies!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mumbai towards Colaba

Mumbai towards Colaba
Originally uploaded by Pimliclive.


Originally uploaded by Nandan Hodavdekar.
Sunrise seen from a hill. I surprised myself and all my relatives by waking up at 5:30 am ready for trek of an hour.


Originally uploaded by Nandan Hodavdekar.
View from Vengurle's port

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Outsider and Insider

I am really a novice when it comes to blogging. Sudhamshu's latest blog (which could be found under the apt name of Professional Pakau) kind of inspired me into writing this.

As I write this, I remember a short anecdote I read in one of my textbooks. The writer tries to get into a crowded train compartment. As it is already crowded, people inside ask him to go to the next one saying that it is less crowded. Nevertheless, when he decides to come in, a well-built guy makes sure that his entry is not very comfortable by blocking his way. However once he is in and the train departs, he slowly finds himself being accepted and when the next station comes, he and the guy who blocked his entry rally together to block outsiders coming in.

What this means, is that there are really no divisions based on religion, nation, money or race. All conflicts basically arise in two groups - insiders and outsiders. Depending on our interests, we play both the roles in different situations. Outsiders struggle to be insiders, and once in more often than not oppose the rest.

So it is not surprising or even self-contradictory when someone advocating banning outsiders coming into metros like Mumbai or Bangalore, is ready to send his children to another country and most often wishes that they would settle there. He is just an insider in his own city, but outsider to that coveted nation.

Narrowing the scope of this discussion to immigration, I guess it is an inevitable process. On a larger scale, it represents the perpetual struggle between Haves and Have-nots. No one can really prevent it; the best they can do is slow it down.

Outsiders usually tend to do better, as mostly they have nothing to lose, are prepared to work harder and take more risks. So if insiders feel a bit of grudge about people coming from outside and feeling insecure about their own future, then it is not unnatural.

Working in a way to preserve one's interest is the natural instinct and when it is coupled with the sense of insecurity and injustice, the insiders do take some drastic measures. Banning movies from a different language being displayed or beating up people coming from a different state or country are just a few examples of it. The holocaust could easily be the gravest one.

The question is where will this lead us? - more hatred and more wars? No one can predict.

But strangely, it appears that the path of attaining Moksha means being outsider to your body and soul. Does that appear to be a simple problem to solve?