Friday, November 30, 2012

Picture Perfect - November

For this month, I am sharing the picture which remained my wallpaper for most of the month. I clicked this in early October, on one of my unique visits to Ajmer; unique because this trip signalled the close of a significant chapter in my life, it signalled the loss of someone very dear to me. Since I was a little kid, I have been visiting Mayo College - one of the best known institutions of our nation, where many a film-stars and politicians have accessed knowledge from - and I have always been enamoured by the pristine surroundings and the heritage buildings which define this place. I used to go their in summer holidays to visit my mamaji. The laidback, calm, and inviting warmth of my mamaji's house within this residential campus form few of my most prized memories of childhood. With mamaji, I gained knowledge of Hindi literature, of food and of Hindi cinema. He was the one who introduced me to Premchand, cheese omelettes and Manna Dey. All that love, care, guidance, unfortunately, is no longer with us. Mamaji left us, left this world sometime back, and I think it will take some more time before a lot of us accept the magnitude of loss we have suffered. I don't think I have been able to accept it till now. 

Wiping those tears away, here is my fondest click of the year - the building which Mamaji introduced me to, and which remains my definition of grandeur. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rich With Life!

Clouds gather lustre
Nature comes to life
Dew emits sparkles
All in her one smile

Makes me love her more, much more
It was an ordinary day when she came to my life. However, any day there after I spent with her, was anything, but ordinary. She has occupied my mind and heart for the better part of 2012. I know there are people convincing you that 2012 the world will end. I can confidently denounce their claims as grand 'rubbish', for it is in this 'doomed' year, that I got a new lease of life. In her.

She chirps to brighten my morning. She laughs like no one's watching. She is conscious of the world around her, yet, she dares to carve another, mini world of her dreams and fantasies around her. Gentle, and naive - she easily grants entry to anyone in her world - her realm of imagination, of blooming flowers, of flowing rivers, of magic, of angels, of darkness, of good triumphing over evil, of niceness pervading all hearts, of love binding people together. It is hard to imagine - a girl, whose visions hold so much piety, how pure would be her heart?

I began this post thinking, I will write her story. That, would be one of first birthday gifts I would surprise her with. However, when I closed my eyes, to conjure her face - my muse for now - only a million descriptions swam in my head.  It is her birthday today, a day no less special to me than her, for it is today I can celebrate her, her existence, her presence in my life. Actually, I do it each day, albeit secretly. Today, the show can be opulent. And it is not her story I need to write, that privilege is entirely hers. I can only cast a subtle impression in words of the grand personality my friend is. Tiny eyed, kind hearted, scared of traffic, proud of her friends, always available to help - all these words are but insufficient capsules to contain the phenomenon Neha is (yes, Neha, that's her name) - and it will take many, many more posts for me to chronicle what time spent with her has been like.

Coolest place in Delhi, and the coolest people in town!
Right now, as my eye lids become heavy, I plan to whisper these wishes into the cold air of night, hoping they are carried as a murmur to her ears.

Dear Neha, 
I pray for your life to be rich. Not (just) with wealth, but with love. You have so much in you too give, and you deserve so much more in return. Just know, you will always get your due, and rewards will always come your way, just not from the direction you expect. Have faith in the grander plans life has for you. Make your talents speak for you. Persevere and excel. 

My God protect you from pain.
May Life be kind on you.
May the stars watch you over.

Happy Birthday!


Your pictures look lovely with me, hence only 'couple' pictures allowed!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When The Snow Melts by Vinod Joseph - A Review

My library has seen a flood of thrillers/crime novels finding their way in and stuffing themselves on every last inch of space available on any shelf. The latest entry, sigh, belongs to the same genre. However, a saving grace of all these books have been, that they have taken me through different terrains, different sub genres of thriller-writing. While the last thriller I reviewed was a medical mystery, and the book I am reviewing for this post had the promise of being an exciting spy novel - and exciting is only an understatement for what Vinod Joseph's book, 'When The Snow Melts' turned out to be.

It is easy to give views on a piece of writing when as a reader, you are friendly with the subject matter contained there in. However, my knowledge of spy-activities and intelligence sharing is limited to Bond movies and Ludlum novels - which is a fair knowledge, I feel. However, no novel have I read which explores fictional topographies constructed out of intelligence activities carried out by Indian or Pakistans spies. Yes, I have seen Ek Tha Tiger, but please - stop! To even mention that overtly (ridiculously) romanticized tale in the review of When The Snow Melts is to do injustice to the great fun and thrill I experienced while reading this novel. In long, I came across a book which I just HAD to finish in one reading. Two readings, spread over 2 days, is what it eventually took. I would not say it is the greatest spy-fiction ever written by an Indian, the novel does have its lackadaisical moments, but overall, I can already let it out - this review will sing strong praises of the author Vinod Joseph.

A little about the storyline before that. Ritwik Kumar is a veteran intelligence agent, who is working with Intelligence Assessment Group in London - a global terror fighting establishment where intelligence reports from across frontiers are pooled in to make the combat against terror outfits more cohesive and efficient. However, Ritwik is not quite the quintessential, invincible, extremely smart spy, who is all committed to the task of searching out Osama Bin Laden from his hideout in the hills of Afghanistan (well, that is what it was assumed for a long time, isn't it?) or purging the ISI, and the whole world, from fanatics and fundamentalists promoting violence in the name of religion. Ritwik is an alcoholic and gambler, snowed under debt, who defects over to nothing less than the al Qaeda! And from their begins the tale of finding his place in the midst of their ideological impositions, feeling titillations of a possible but forbidden love and saving not only himself, but his love interest from the way of fatal harm.

Honestly, the reader will be quite clear after reading the first fifty pages what the eventual outcome of Ritwik's adventures in Al Qaeda-land will be, but the journey is truly worthwile. Vinod Joseph's novel is a treat for readers who like to get into the author's mind and attempt to stay a pace ahead of his narrative. A wee bit unfortunate is the fact that as a reader, I did win this race against the author many a times, but there were moments of unexpected revelations, which kept me on the edge and even made me shiver for a nanosecond perhaps. The glimpse that one gets into the world of diplomacy, intelligence-sharing, terrorists and fanatics in this book is quiet valuable. What is excellent is also the fact that the sub-plot of a love story is cleverly woven into the larger script, and not once does it overpower the actual genre-allegiance  of this book - When The Snow Melts remains an interesting spy thriller, giving you something to chew on till the last page. Easy and intelligent use of language make the reading experience better.

I did wonder, at the end, what relevance did the title have to the story line, except for that there was a lot of snow was present everywhere in the description. A title always gives the promise of meaning, and if, in that case, melting of snow is similar to clearing of mist, then, well, okay. There were a few breathtaking turns at the end in the story, but I would maintain, the larger picture was devoid of any mist. On that note, I would conclude this review, by awarding it 3 on 5 stars. Good read, and strongly recommended to everyone who likes this genre

Book title - When The Snow Melts
Author - Vinod Joseph
Source - Review copy provided by the author
Publisher - Amaryllis
Genre - Thriller/Spy Fictionn
Price - Rs. 195
Pages - 202

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Portrait Of His Love

And my fists tighten.
And his grip strengthens.
My moans to his ears.
His love with my fears.
He withdraws and I crave.
To his love, an eager slave.
His breath, his sly grin.
His skin on my skin.
His burning gaze.
Tender body, vulnerable face.
In passion we fall.
Two bodies, one soul.

Afremov, on my blog after long.
His colors lend the best effect to my words, I feel.
Note - This poem has earlier been published in The Viewspaper, as an entry to Ode to Keats campaign. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

For You, A Thousand Times Over

I do not relish the sound of those drums.
They hurt my ear, I prefer gentle strums.
But holding your hand,
I’ll learn to like this band,
If it is loudness which you prefer
For you, my dear, a thousand times over.

I like raindrops tickling my nose
You dread the downpour, the chilly wind which blows,
I want go out and dance with you
Reluctance in your eyes gives me cue
I close the door, shut out the drizzles,
For you, my dear, a thousand times over.

Cold is not my greatest friend
But your home is a snow covered land
I’ve been nourished under the scorching sun
When you went out, you came back burnt
I’m not sure how, but I will brave the winter
For you, my dear, a thousand times over.

You love me as much as I love you
Here’s bliss aplenty, and pains very few
You’ve held my hand in every strife
And said, “Loving you is a way of life”
Not once, but from when I can remember,
Your voice has assured, always, forever,
“For you, my sweetheart, a thousand times over.”

(This  poem has been previously been published in The Viewspaper. You can find it at this link -

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lost Libido and other Gulp Fiction by Salil Desai - A Review

I have no idea what gulp fiction means. Is is the kind of fiction which is so awesome that it makes you gulp? Or makes you choke with excitement? Or makes your heart stop momentarily under the thrill it creates? Whatever it is, it is a potentially amazing, rather, fatally amazing genre of fiction to experiment with. And Salil Desai, in his third book, has done a marvellous job of introducing and promoting this new and curious genre of writing in the market.

I am still gasping from the effect the second last story of this compendium - called Lost Libido and other Gulp Fiction - had on me. I could talk about that one story at length, and of course, Cul-De-Sac, the name of the story I am caught under the spell of, happens to be my favorite of the lot. It is funny, innovative, creative, weird, weirder  and just so exhaustively awesome, that despite being one of the longest of this 17 story collection, I still wished it wouldn't end. I wanted it to give me more moments of hilarity. I wanted to see to what level the author's imagination could stretch. And stretch it sure can. Not so much imagination as wit and observation. Salil Desai, in this collection of short stories drawn from mundane lives of urban individuals has proven himself to be a master of both - wit, observation - and perhaps a lot more. 

Lost Libido and other gulp fiction is a book which single mindedly sets out to dwell on the darker side of humans. When Angel Lucifer was expelled from Heaven and given the unholy title of Satan, he vowed to keep extracting revenge from the most dear creation of God - Man. And he did not stop at the exit gate of Garden of Eden. He followed Man to Earth, and is almost as important an influence in Man's daily activities as God, or Goodness is. Only we seek to refute this obvious fact time and again. Salil Desai's book will not paint any heavenly pictures of human existence. It will not tell you how beautiful life is, how goodness always triumphs, how truth is consistent, or how love is the basis of existence. It will show you a mirror of your lives, our lives. It will tell you how an average individual, caught in the rigmarole of routine jobs copes up with stress which his confused existence heaps on him. People today, specifically talking of India (since this book uses urban India as a backdrop), are dealing with a life which is always in flux, where competition lurks in ugly manifestations and where desires and expectations often get the better of man. If anything, Salil Desai's book will break the image of a perfect world which you conjure, very specifically in a story interestingly titled - Our Friendly Neighbourhood Murder.

Each story, which finds a place for itself in this anthology, is worth talking about individually. Very few, if any, disappoint the reader. The only reason I had of being disappointed with a few stories was that with the first two stories, Salil establishes a high standard from himself - one that as a reader you fervently hope doesn't dip at any cost. I have said this before, and I maintain - In the mad pace of life all of us have adopted for running towards nothingness with, short stories are ideal breaks one can afford to apply when distractions are sought. Only, be careful of reading a book with as promiscuous a title as "Lost Libido" in public transport. Like I did on my daily journeys in metro. People stare. But that is also fun in a way.

So, anyway, this is a 3.5 on 5 stars book for me. My favorite of the lot were - 
1. Cul-De-Sac - Enough reasons explained above.
2. The Maths Conundrum - As a child, I had a horrendous time trying to cope up with the devil that mathematics was. I understood what little Nakul went through while being unable to cope up with the same, though I had no idea his predicament would acquire such tragic proportions. 
3. Our Friendly Neighbourhood Murder - Dark. Awesome. Brilliant. Leaves you asking for more. 
4. One Monday Morning - A whole family, spending its last happy day together. Why last? Well, read to find out. I only wish the ending gave me more. 
5. A Susceptible Conscience - This story is one in which all of us, invariably, will find an echo of ourselves in. How easily we convince ourselves, how easily we think we deceive the omnipresent powers - read this one to know. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quote Quintet - October

October was a hectic month. Very very hectic month. Pleasantly hectic month. Hence this post comes a little late. However, recollecting quotes is an activity I enjoy. So, I will continue with the recently begun tradition of posting here 5 of the most impactful lines I came across in the preceding month. Last month was marked with many activities and experiences. I gained professional success, and met with some personal losses too. I saw smiles shining right into my face; I saw tears falling out of tired eyes. I celebrated festivals. I mourned losses. And in the middle of all that, I managed to find some time to note down lines which I would like to remember.

Nothing extraordinary. Simple lines. Important thoughts. Here they are.

On Living
"No human being is illegal."
- Elie Wiesel
(Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner.)
I read this line and I stared at it. I stared at it for minutes, and found its essence to be so profound that this line refused to leave my mind. Live and let live. How difficult is it to understand? How easily individuals, agencies, authorities fall in the pit of trying to determine the kind of existence others should/should not have. Or if they should exist at all. And who better to articulate this thought that a holocaust survivor. I look at my friends from the North-East, and I look at this line. I remember the violence perpetrated in Assam, and I remember notions of peaceful, cohesive existence. Sometimes, its all just hogwash.

On Information Explosion
"It is said that from the dawn of civilization, till 2003, humanity accumulated about 5 exabytes of data; today that much is added in two days."
Sachin Pilot
(Minister of State, Independent Charge, Corporate Affairs)
Whoa. Magnitude. Explosion of data. How much can a human mind cope with, after all. In the face of it all, I have a set of friends too, who just want to feed on knowledge and never stop. Slow down people. There is no way yo make friends with knowledge which has acquired these gigantic proportions.
(Exabytes - A billion billion bytes, just so the mammoth proportions are clear.

On (Alternate) Politics
"Politics is the centrestage of the present system, the stage where system is made or unmade..someone has to accept the challenge of stepping on this stage."
Vision Document of India Against Corruption
(Released by IAC on October 2, 2012, when they launched themselves as a political outfit)
Kejriwal is attempting big. Do his endeavours hold promise? I would be an eager spectator, but a useless speculator. Should wait this one out.

On The Pickwick Fest '12
"What a wonderful festival - superb organization! Thanks for inviting me; I enjoyed all of it."
Nilanjana Roy
(Author of The Wildings. Special Guest and Judge during TPF)
This line came in a form of a text message which celebrated the efforts of each member of the Pickwick Family and boosted their confidence. By God's grace, today, the Pickwick family is close-knit unit, which just refuses to separate. May the good times stay. Always.

On Art
"Good art should not be constrained by boundaries."
Saumya Kulshreshtha
(You know her, don't you?)
It was a happy and proud moment when a quote by me made its way to a news article on The Pickwick Fest in Hindustan Times dates 13th October, 2012. Our festival was touted as one of the most looked forward to events in Delhi during mid-October. That's how we do Jamia proud! And in the above quote, I tried to explain the rational behind bringing to great authors, from different linguistic and geographical backgrounds together in our festival - Charles Dickens and Saadat Hassan Manto. Find below an image of the article.

That'll be all for October. Last two quotes are absolutely narcissistic in essence, but, okay, I do not really mind allowing the spirit of Narcissus entering my mind once in a while.

Happy November and Festive Season to All!