Aug 17, 2016

The story of a suicide: A rebellious novel for more than one reason

Image courtesy: micagoto on Flickr
Have you ever felt suicidal? I must admit here itself that I have not. But I am curious. What would that feeling be like? Is it cowardice or an act of great bravery? Will it be a sudden pang or a persistent voice? Is it the deep end of the well or the light at the end of the tunnel? Is it an escape or an entry? Is it morally right or wrong? Is it the solution or the confusion? Is it the easy way out or the best way out?

I have wondered about these questions for a few of times in the past when I was around a case of a suicide. Once, it was the suicide of a neighbour boy who was my senior in school. I was in the 8th standard and he was in the 9th standard. Nobody knew why he died. The next time, it was the suicide of a junior in college who had ended his life on account of love failure. The last time, it was the case of a friend who went through a very stressful episode in his relationship when his partner threatened to commit suicide. She still lives but the relationship died.

I recently read a novel that triggered these thoughts yet again. The novel 'A story of a suicide' by my friend and colleague Sriram Ayer is a very interesting read. This is his first novel and he has debuted in a rebellious way. You will not find this novel in the bookstores because it is not printed yet. It is an online novel accessible in this site - It is rebellious in both the content and the form. Let me write about them both without revealing much about the story.

It revolves around four central characters tied together in a gripping thread that runs in a college campus. One of them ends his/her life at the end of the novel. The answer to the question 'why' and several other questions as byproducts constitute the novel. As a privileged friend, I got to read the manuscript before the release of the novel and I get to discuss the issues around the novel with the author in person. This adds another layer of my experience to this book, which I seek to share in this blog post.

Sriram knows a lot of people. Literally, a lot. He meets a myriad range of characters across all walks of life. That gives enough hues for him to paint a character in his canvas. He chooses the canvas of youth and the colours that have come out are bold, dark and sometimes even taboo. His opinions about the young people are very interesting. He wants them to commit to something. He encourages youngsters to do something. He gets disappointed at youngsters who never turn up for the grand show of life. He has pulled out four characters as a representative sample from the vast pool of youngsters who seem very sure about themselves on the outside but are fragile inside.

They are defined by identity crisis, relationship issues, weight of expectations, resistance to order, fear of failure and knee-jerk reactions. But it takes a closer look to spot these rusty spots because they have mastered the art of coating themselves with indifference, aggression and sometimes even normal niceties. Are all youngsters like this? He neither says yes nor a no. He shrugs his shoulders and says 'maybe' with a meaningful smirk.

My initial response to this novel was that this can't be the general truth and it is a story of the odd ones out. It was a shocking experience. Not that I am a person who shies away from the taboo topics, but it challenged several assumptions of mine about the youngsters. I am still in the late twenties and hence it was even more surprising for me. I asked myself if I can connect with the world of youngsters shown in this novel? I could only say 'remotely'. But I could not deny that they don't exist too. Now after reading the novel, my perceptions have been challenged even further. This is why you should read it too. It poses several questions, dark and deep.

I never quite understand suicides. More so, the reasons for them. If people have to kill themselves for being rejected, I should not be alive and writing this now at the first place and most probably you should not be alive to read this too. But why are some rejections so unbearably painful and fatal? Is it the rejection's problem or the rejected's problem? Apparently, ever since the release of the novel, it has triggered several discussions around these topics and it has given a platform for several people to come to light stating their doubts and confusions and sharing their pains. That is a major success of this novel. Sriram plans not to stop here, now that he has set the rolling ball on fire. He wants to hold conversations and help the ones in distress. Bravo!

I firmly believe in a saying that goes like this. 'There is always the easy answer and the right answer'. Suicides are easy answers for me.

Another reason why the novel is rebellious is because of its form. As a writer, I know how uncertain the path towards the first book is. Publishers take you for a ride. Marketers take you for a ride. Reviewers take you for a ride. Unfortunately, most readers do not even know about the ride and somehow they miss the bus, always. People say that you should be backed by a big publisher to be widely read. Big publishers are more comfortable backing the authors who are already widely read. Where will a first-timer go? Self-publishing seems to be an easy answer but I have stressed enough about easy answers already above.

Sriram has cleverly stayed out of this vortex. He has opted to release it on his own as a web-novel with great illustrations, a classy trailer and even a promo song. He pulled it all off with the help of his friends and well-wishers. Why does a writer write? To be read. This is the simple answer. Selling huge number of copies and making money are all secondary. People are reading this novel and that is all that matters. The response he has received so far has even beaten the traditional route's reach.

We may see a print version of this book soon backed by a big publisher. We may see a movie adapted from this novel soon. I am just saying it is all very probable because of the reach it has generated. This is a curious takeaway for budding writers.

And if you are a budding writer who is feeling suicidal because no one is ready to publish your book, you get two solid reasons to read this book!

- GS
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Jul 25, 2016

Kabali da

The three major stakeholders of Kabali to me.
3. Pa. Ranjith:-
Directing Rajinikanth is a pressure in itself. That too when he gets the chance to direct Rajini when he himself wants a rebirth on the screen?! He will be judged. He will be scrutinized. He will be glorified to the top or stamped by foot. Should he have played it safe? No, that is not why he was chosen in the first place. He needed to see Rajinikanth through new glasses which were probably never worn before by anyone. Rajinikanth is a magician but people have only seen him do his parlour tricks lately and were so content with just that. However appealing they were, Ranjith had to move on and set the stage for his next grand act. He had to make Rajini age gracefully with dignity and style on the screen without losing his charisma. He had to tickle the memories of the past with a few adherences to the Superstar expectations but then stick to his movie. He has fit him in a deserving character in a well-researched script.
Good job, Ranjith!
2. Rajinikanth (not Thalaivar) (not Superstar)
This movie does not happen in Rajiniland where Rajini is invincible and everything is so easy to him. He is not immortal. He is not thalaivar. He is not the Superstar. He is a mortal, vulnerable, ageing gangster who is finding his way back. He is the big fish in a dangerous pool and he could be finished anytime by anyone with just one wrong move- not only in the movie, but also figuratively in real life.
Remember the lion Alex from the film Madagascar? Rajini has been that performing lion so far and we have loved his moves like crazy. With years of practice, he perfected it to such an extent that all he has to do is turn up. For once, he wanted to leap out of the cage and hunt like a real lion. It will be slow, devoid of comic reliefs and probably less glamorous. But when the lion pounces on the prey, it fulfills a moment destined for its potential!
He wanted a challenge. He wanted to act in a movie which he can be proud of when he looks deep into the mirror. He had always been successful in giving orgasms to his fans by just fingering them, but is he not more than mere finger tricks?! He has finally said, 'Fuck it. let me act like I am meant to'. By deciding to be a mortal actor, he has discovered himself again in a whole new light with this movie.
Happy for him. Proud of him.
1.The fan (aka me)
I was a kid when I watched Basha. I just wanted to beat up the bad guys with a hand pump. I adored Manick Basha. I was a college student when I watched Shivaji. I wanted to hoot and dance in the front rows and celebrate every moment of the Superstar. I loved Shivaji. I am a young adult (or an old youth) who has travelled a bit, watched some good cinema and understood how fucked up the world is despite loving it. I see Kabali now. I get goosebumps.
I have always wanted to see Rajini like this in the recent years. Acting his age but with the same magical charisma; slipping into a character rather than towering above the movie; avoiding the boyish stunts and gimmicks; and daring to fly out of the golden cage he was locked in. Like he says himself in the movie, the very love that we showed to him has been the biggest load that limited him. He has let it go to take the plunge now and he has an exciting world of characters to choose from here. I want to see more of this Rajini. I am so delighted that this is happening and for that I can accept the few flaws in the movie and gear up for more. Because I know that the more this happens, it will only get better.
Proud of Rajinikanth.

Nov 30, 2015

Anna University draws inspiration from Duckworth-Lewis method to conduct exams #MightAsWellHappen

In a sweeping statement of administrative innovation and cross-functional knowledge sharing, the reputed Anna University has proposed a new method of conducting exams for engineering students in Tamil Nadu. Incessant rains and heavy floods have forced the university to delay the exams this semester repeatedly. While students have almost forgotten which semester they were in, the university pulls out this masterpiece. Apparently, the examination controller said in an interview, the university has drawn inspiration from the famous Duckworth-Lewis method used in cricket to declare a result to matches interrupted by rain. This method requires that  a minimum percentage of the game to be complete before the rain interruption to come into place. Based on the situation of the game, the method works out a complicated projection formula and predicts who is the winner of the match.

Similarly, the university examination control board has worked out a complex formula to project the semester scores of students based on the past performances of the student and the concerned subject. When asked to explain the method, the controller said that in times of rain interruption such as this when conducting exams is not possible, they can project the scores of students without even writing the exam. Two parameters are taken into account for the projection. The student should have completed a minimum of 2 semesters. The scores of the student in the earlier semesters is one parameter. The historic data obtained from the students in each particular paper is the second variable. Based on these two parameters, the method will be able to predict how much a student would score in the current semester. 

Sep 4, 2015

The ring

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I have never worn a ring
before she put one on me.
It felt strangely new.
Intrusive, at times irritating,
like someone barging into my privacy
like someone shadowing me everywhere
like someone's just been glued to me.
because this is not how it should be.
What clause did I miss reading
while signing up for it?

Its presence was loud and big
in my conscience,
blocking my view of the world. 

In less than a week
it has become a part of me,
like someone
who I share my privacy with
who accompanies me everywhere
who has just become inseparable.

When I part with it for a brief while
I feel something is missing.
Now I understand.
I see the world through the ring,
like I see the world through my glasses
for clear vision!

I guess marriages will be like this!


Apr 27, 2015

The world's most beautiful game of chess

Very recently I got to be part of what is to me the world's most beautiful game of chess. Yes, beautiful. Not the most intelligent, not the most brainy but the most beautiful and perhaps the most poetic! The players of this game were me and my four-year old niece.

So on a lazy weekend afternoon, she picked up the chess board and suggested that we play chess. I was curious. I did not even know that she knew this game. For my age, I am nothing more than a novice in chess. I know only the names of the coins and the rules of the game. But for a child's play, this is far sufficient and so I too agreed to play chess.

But to quench my curiosity, I asked her if she knew to play chess. She said yes. I asked who taught her to play chess. She said she had learnt it herself by watching cartoon characters play chess. Wow! Is my niece that brilliant? Should I take her to an IQ test just in case she is the next girl wonder whiz-kid? As my thoughts were spinning in this direction, she asked me which colour I wanted.

I gave her the option to pick herself and she took white. I asked her if she knew the names of the coins. She said yes and that her mother - yes, my sister - had taught her the names of the coins. Then I asked her if she knew how to move the coins. By this time, she lost her patience and gave me a 'Ellam theriyum.. Nee moodu' look and went on with the game. The game began thus!

She took one of the white coins from the box and placed it on a random square on her side and asked me to make my move. Wait a minute! What? I did not get what was happening. I asked her aren't we supposed to arrange all coins in the starting position before making the first move. She looked at me as if I knew nothing and then volunteered to teach me the game. Here is how the game should be played.

Chess is a two-player game. Each player plays with a set of coins of one colour. The players have to place their coins on their side of the chess board on alternate turns and play the game. While they are placing the coin on the board, they have to correctly tell the name of the coin. And most importantly, the players have to place coins in the board, one at a time from the box outside. And whenever a player feels like doing it, he/she can take a coin and attack one of the opponent coins and push it out of the box. Simple!

So I got a hang of the game's rules and thus we began playing the world's most beautiful game of chess. In response to her first move, I took one black bishop and placed it in the board on my side. Her move. She took out another white coin and introduced that coin as the elephant to me and placed it on her side of the board. A few moves went thus. The board was half filled with coins and suddenly she went on attack mode. She took one of her horses and the horse came flying to attack a poor soldier of mine and the soldier was pushed out of the board.

I responded by taking an elephant of mine and I attacked her bishop. She did not expect my move and this time she came back with a vengeance. She took the other bishop and took out my elephant. Then I resorted to the white flag. I suggested that we play normally and not attack each other. She thought for a moment and accepted my peace offer. In an amazingly magnanimous gesture, she even brought the attacked coins from both sides back into play because of the ceasefire. When I asked her why she is putting those coins back on the board, she said 'pavam la.. let them also play'. I was grinning ear to ear by that time. Then came her masterstroke.

She took another coin from her box and placed it outside the box on the floor and asked me to make my move. Is this the out-of-the-box way of playing chess? I was no more asking questions. I should not expect her to teach me everything. I should also pick up the game by seeing it. So I took a coin from the box and placed it closer to where she placed her last coin on the floor. She gave me an acknowledging smile and took a coin from the board now and placed it in the floor. Ah, the game began interesting here! We both knew the rules of the game perfectly and were playing in sync.

I took another coin from the board and placed it on a chair nearby. She took another coin from the floor and started running to the next room and placed it on the floor there. Thus we played chess all around the home for the next thirty minutes and when both of us felt it was time for a draw, we called the game off and put all the coins back into the box and kept the box carefully in its place. Well, that's her habit. She is so particular about the place of each thing. Every toy of hers has a place in the home and after playing, she makes sure that the toy is put in its right place.

So that is the story of the world's most beautiful game of chess, of which I am one of the proud players too. And it is thoroughly my privilege to have played this game with its inventor herself. Bliss.


Image courtesy : Doug Butchy

Mar 5, 2015

From openers to finishers - Jayasurya to Dhoni via Klusener

1996.. The Cricket World Cup. I was just a small restless boy then when my father introduced cricket watching to me. The first cricket matched I watched live on TV was a 1996 World Cup game. I still remember how my father narrated to me then as to how the game has changed a lot in the last decade and how power hitters at the top of the innings are revolutionising the game. Of course, Jayasurya and Kaluwitharana were playing against some team in that match, going after their famous mantra of 100 runs in 15 overs. That was the strategy that the Sri Lanka team executed with great success then, making full use of the field restrictions and lofted shots. My dad had grown up watching Gavaskar and it was blasphemy to him. But to me it was fun.

Sachin Tendulkar did the same. Mark Waugh did the same. Gary Kirsten did the same. Aamir Sohail did the same. Games were won or lost by how well the openers played and set up big scores. It was a World Cup of the openers - especially the Sri Lankan pair. It was a brilliant strategy of getting a jumpstart to the race before the opposition woke up fully to the game.

Two decades later.... as I continue to watch the game with the same passion now, how could I miss the change in the paradigm now! Cricket is now the game of the finishers. A finisher's role is as much a specialist's as that of an opener's. This World Cup of 2015 might very well be remembered for the finishers and may the team with the best finishers win. Who are the names that come to your mind?

Dhoni, AB devilliers, Maxwell, Corey Anderson, Angelo Mathews, Misbah Ul Haq - these are the men who are going to call the shots in this World Cup. It is all about finishing with a flourish now. 100 runs in the last 10 overs is the new mantra. And how has the game changed inch by inch from the push at the start to the finish!

In the 1999 World Cup, one man caught the imagination of everybody with the late flourish and I vividly remember when Lance Klusener took on Chaminda Vaas on a final over assault in a World Cup game in England. 20 odd runs in one over. Ridiculous! How could that be done?! 1999. He pioneered the trend of the 'finisher'.

2015. We are talking scores of 400+ and individual scores of 200+ now. Not in the flat pitches of the subcontinent. But, in the, well... 'flat' pitches of Australia and NewZealand. The game has become more and more favoured to the batsmen and sixers do not carry the halo around them as they had in 1996. In fact, with the bigger bats and powerful arms wielding them now, hitting sixes looks easier than placing boundaries. One need not even worry about placement and fielders while lofting it high and far with as much power as he has.

I would like to see one more interesting change to the game in the next decade. What if the scores are to be swapped for sixers and boundaries in future with the same logic? A wild heave over deep midwicket that lands in the second tier of the audience? Let that be scored 4 runs. A delightful cover drive that cuts through three fielders diving in to stop it from reaching the boundary? Give that the maximum runs - 6! Boundaries are more pleasing to watch and are more a test of skill than power to a batsman. 

Nevertheless, speaking of the shift from the power hitting at the start to the finish, openers have also redefined their roles now. With two new balls, openers are not going after racy starts. They are consolidating. They are playing to keep wickets in hand and give their finishers the platform. Many a times, they make use of the platforms themselves too. Think of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohil, Chris Gayle. They shift from a top order player to a murderous finisher almost effortlessly.

The performance of batsmen has improved drastically over the last years in cricket and it has been aided by rules and pitches too to some extent. It is the bowlers who have had to catch up. Some bowlers prefer the style of old - swing and pace. Dale Steyn and Mitchell Starc stand as examples of these two combined. There are others who master swing - Tim Southee's seven wicket haul in this World Cup against England for example and others who go by sheer pace - think of Mitchell Johnson's chin music. But in general, there are no masterly bowlers today in my opinion as there are batsmen.

In those days we had Ambrose, Warne, Mcgrath, Kumble, Murali, Wasim and Waqar - champion bowlers. No body dared to take them on. They had magic that can last for 60 deliveries. But today, even Steyn and Johnson, on a bad day, are reduced to mere mortals. Whereas the batsmen have flourished. There are greater deeds done with the bat now more than ever. Gayle, Kohli, deVilliers - these are people killing the bowlers with a smile. Dhoni, Maxwell, Misbah - these are people who play in their squads as specialist 'finishers'.

Seems like the performance of the bat has gone up like a hill and that with the ball has flattened a bit over the last decades. However, the side with the best finishers is expected to win this Cup in 2015. Let's see who has the last laugh.


(Images sourced from Google Search)

This post is a reply to Harsha Bhogle's call for his #BloggerDeamTeam through Blogmint. Let's see if I make it. 

Feb 19, 2015

Transparent and sincere - Fall like a rose petal

Let me tell you how this book was introduced to me. 'So I decided I am going to buy you a book. But I really did not know what to get you. I was browsing through many when I came across this book. I was thinking. Fall like a rose petal. 'Fall'? Really? On your birthday? But no, the blurb said that the book had no beginning or end and it just flows and focuses only on the present moment. It spoke of living gracefully without money. It shared character similarities with you. I realized that this is the book for you. I know you do not like self-help books. But I truly hope that this book will teach you something that you already didn't know'. Thus I laid my hands on this book on my last birthday, gifted by a dear friend. The above introduction, despite being about the book, also would have introduced a bit about me. I am an entrepreneur chasing my own passions on an alternate path where money is not the top priority. I live a simple peaceful life, neither rich nor poor. I do not like self-help books. A major impetus for me to start the book was the dearness of the friend rather than the subject of the book itself.

However the book appealed to my curiosity once I started reading it. It did teach me a lesson or two I did not know before. It reiterated a few of my life principles. It challenged my perceptions on some aspects. It made me ask a few rhetorical questions - to myself, to the author, to his wife, to his children and also to the society.

AVIS Viswanathan, the author of the book, takes us through his story with the help of a collection of handpicked journals that he had penned down for his son during a testing phase of his life. He is coming out of the phase slowly but surely but the experiences documented by him will definitely be invaluable to his son and to many readers like us. In a nutshell, he was an ambitious entrepreneur who took the big leap after tasting initial success with his venture. Unfortunately, he did not cross the chasm and he fell into a trap of huge debts, self-doubts, embarrassments and tremendous stress. Fortunately he remembered one vital lesson - to fall like a rose petal - and that has made an interesting story to tell.

As a fellow entrepreneur myself, I could put myself in his shoes clearly on many occasions. I felt the bullish enthusiasm of scaling up. I felt the cringing blow of cashlessness. I felt the prickly stigma of the society. I felt the holding hand of faith. I felt the burning moments of decision making. At a point in his dark days, one of his clients offers to acquire his company for a throwaway price and take him onboard as an employee with a high paid role. Ditto. I have been in that position at least twice in my life so far. AVIS rejects the offer and walks back to be his own boss. Ditto. I have done the same. Twice.

I have always known that a wrong move in scaling up could land me in huge debt. I am still cautious about taking that leap. But I have never heard from anyone as transparently as AVIS from the other side. To me, the most enlightening aspect of the book is the depiction of the daily challenges and embarrassments and doubts of the debt-ridden man. Simultaneously, it cautions me further while thinking of debts and gives me hope that no situation is irreversible. Faith and patience play a crucial role in the life of an entrepreneur. In fact, I have already written a post about our mantra of faith in entrepreneurship that I picked from the Harry Potter books. I will do well to remember AVIS's words when I face roadblocks in life in the future.

I could not but admire the supporting role played by AVIS's wife in his comeback. The woman behind his success. AVIS has written about some extremely humbling moments of breaking down with sheer transparency and courage. He has cried. He has lost hope. He has lost his temper. He has got his hands dirty in life and in writing this book and this sincerity and transparency are the best points in this book according to me.

However I could not but question the sense behind some decisions in the story. It seems to me and even to him in hindsight that he could have avoided the debt getting bigger and bigger with some smart decision making. Experience is the best teacher, they say. So I may not take this book to give me business lessons. It seemed perfectly fine when he postponed payments to some of his debtors who were otherwise well-off. They can wait. But there were a few occasions where he was not able to repay some debtors in time when they were also in a critical need of money. Though his rationale of meeting his own life expenses first before paying off debtors makes sense, such scenarios are extremely awkward to escape from a feeling of guilt.

As an entrepreneur, I know very well what impact a delayed payment can have. If I put myself in the debtor's position, I would be extremely uncomfortable and the frustration would be even more than that of AVIS. At times my clients delay payments to me citing reasons that they have not received money from sources where they were expecting. This is a very damaging chain of events in business because for no fault of mine, I am getting denied of a rightful payment. It will put me in a position to delay payments to my vendors and then in turn they delay payments to their vendors. This debt chain ties the hands of so many people in our life very silently today and I would try my best to stay away from entering this chain at any point.

No man who ever dares to take a risk wishes to be a failure. But unfortunately not every attempt will win. A failed attempt does not mean a failed man. Because he has dared to attempt something that more than half the world's population does not have the courage to even touch. The man will bounce back, no matter how deep he has fallen, if he keeps his composure right during the fall. In other words, if he falls like a rose petal. The injuries will be far lesser and even a slight waft of breeze is enough to lift the petal back again on to the sky.

The book does not go the preachy way which many self-help books choose. Though at times, it wavers into that danger zone for me, it comes back quickly to normalcy. It deals mostly with real experiences and real first-person narratives of the life lessons. That transparency and sincerity make this book a worthy read. Thanks for providing that AVIS Sir.


(Rose petal : Image courtesy : Martin Kenny)

Dec 16, 2014

Shelfie - A selfie on my bookshelf - part 2

This post is a continuation to the part 1 of this thread initiated by Penguin India's #BookADayIndia event in the social media. This is a compilation of the answers to the questions posed by Penguin in the second half of this December.

Dec 16 : Your favourite Jane Austen character? It is Jane Austen's birthday. 

How absurd will I sound if I said I have not read any Jane Austen book so far? Nevertheless, on her birthday, prompted by Penguin, I looked her up on Google and found some of her quotes very interesting. Here is the one that I liked the most. Maybe I should read Jane Austen to understand some of the interesting women that I never quite understood well enough in my life.

Dec 17 : A book that made you hungry? 

My Business Law lecturer gifted this book to me during my MBA. I never knew that this book would change my life at that point of time. This book planted the idea of entrepreneurship in my mind and made me hungry. When the first opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it and today my life is defined by that single move I made. Think of the butterfly effect!

Dec 18 : Favourite autobiography ? 

I have only read two autobiographies so far - Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's and Sachin Tendulkar's. Sachin's autobiography will be my pick because reading Sachin's autobiography was also like visualizing my own autobiography. I was able to relive the moments of watching all the matches and the innings that Sachin narrated in the book. Only now, I became a little bit more wiser by knowing what was in the master's mind at that point of time too.

Dec 19 : A book to read when homesick ? 

'Thaayaar Sannadhi' by Sugaa. (Tamil) I am a simple small-town boy from Tirunelveli in South Tamil Nadu. If you know Tirunelveli, then I am from Ambasamudram. If you know Ambasamudram too, then I am from Vickramasingapuram. If you know Vickramasingapuram too, bloody hell, you might as well have seen me spending summer vacations eating Adhirasam all day there. This particular book strongly made me feel the flavour of Tirunelveli with its intricate dialect and amazing familiarity with the town. Tirunelveli is a way of life! This book made me visit my place mentally. 

Dec 20 : Favourite fairy-tale character ? 

I have not read much of fairy tales. Only 'Snow white and the seven dwarfs', that which I received as the first prize in an elocution competition in primary school. Otherwise, this is the first character that comes to my mind when I think of fairy tales. Really enjoyed watching this movie. Feel-good :-)

Dec 21 : A book to gift around Christmas ?

Let me turn the tables here. This is a book that I have added to my wishlist. The blurb appealed a lot to me and I want to read this book. Who is going to turn Santa to me? (Link to buy the book) If you are still serious, drop me a comment. I will give logistics details ;-)

Dec 22 : A book that makes you cry ? 

 The last time I had tears in my eyes while reading a book was when I finished 'Ayesha'- an extremely short Tamil novel about a curious young school girl. The book raised several questions on how we treat children in our schools and how childhood is seen by our society. Try reading this book if possible. Not more than 60 pages but I guarantee that it won't let you sleep for at least a week.

Dec 23 : Best book you ever received as a gift ? 

Surprisingly, as I think of an answer to this question, I just realize that I have received only just a handful of books as gifts. All my reading has either been bought or borrowed. Not gifted enough, perhaps (pun intended) :-) Nevertheless, there is one book that came in recently which holds a special place because of the circumstances. Strangely, I am yet to even read the book. But still, the moment I received this book as a gift is simply unforgettable. 

Dec 24 : Favourite family read ? 

My father is an avid reader and is an inspiration for me to turn to reading from a very young age. We have vastly different tastes in reading but still we discuss books that each other reads and prescribe books to each other. Very rarely do we both read the same book with interest. One such book that we both read with equal interest and curiosity was also one of the oldest tales mankind has ever known. 
A version of The Mahabharatha in Tamil.

Dec 25 : Favourite Christmas book ? 

Again, I will rephrase this question as the favourite Christmas story. This is the first story that comes to my mind. 'The Gift of Magi' - O. Henry. A masterpiece. I am a great fan of O. Henry.

Dec 26 : A book on your shelf which you haven't read yet ?

'Introduction to psychoanalysis' - Sigmund Freud. My long term dream is to complete this book. I have made two attempts so far and have crossed more than half the book. I have made notes in the book all along like a text book so that whenever I restart, I can get a quick preview of what has been completed so far. Very fascinating thoughts! May be sooner I will complete this book.

Dec 27 : A book you couldn't put down ? 

'Ponniyin Selvan' (in Tamil) - 2000 odd pages. 3 days!

Dec 28 : An author you discovered this year? 

Made quite a few new additions to this list this year. Got to know some authors even better. Mostly in Tamil but also in English. One particular author draws a special mention because of his strong influence in my reading habit. He is the only author whom I wanted to dive deep into this year. Jeyamohan! One of my blog posts about a book of his was shared by him on his website. Proud moment.

Dec 29 : Your best read of 2014 ? 

Quite a few contentions for this prize. But one book stands tall amidst the rest because of a peculiar sync with my real life as I was reading the book. More than the book itself, some books become very very special because of the time in which you read them in your life. This timing almost seems like destiny in hindsight. As I was reading this book, I could relate the central character of this book to a dear friend in real life. The book helped me understand the friend better and vice versa. Couldn't have asked for a better timing.

Dec 30 : Happy birthday Rudyard Kipling! Your favourite Rudyard Kipling character?

Well, it was Jane Austen in the first half of this month. Rudyard Kipling now. Again, how absurd would I look if I said I have not read Kipling before? Again, I googled for famous Kipling quotes and fond this one which connected with me quite well. The same belief that I have most times too.

Dec 31 : Most awaited book of 2015? 

'Kanavu Pattarai' (Tamil) - a collection of short stories on many inspiring children who are living now in north Madras and are studying in schools run by the Chennai Corporation. They all attended a residential camp called 'Kanavu Pattarai', run by an NGO (Nalandaway Foundation) sometime in 2013 or 2014. One facilitator of the camps was so moved by the stories of these children and the camps that he began to document them for all world to read. He definitely believes that in their stories lies a key for adults to understand the world of children. He strives to show the different hues of child personalities that fascinated him. He hopes that this book will tell the importance of self-esteem in shaping a child's personality. He wishes that the adults who read the book pick up a trick or two about how to treat the society's children. He is working hard to bring this book out in 2015 through a good publisher. He is yours truly!


Dec 15, 2014

Shelfie - A selfie on my bookshelf - part 1

This December, I came across an interesting social media trend initiated by Penguin India. That is the #BookADayIndia Event. The questions posed for each day are so intriguing and prompting me to look back into all the pages that I have read so far to find the answer. As an account of this month-long voyage, I register this blog with all answers compiled into one post. Of course, I started a bit late. So there was some catch up to do. Here we go. Part 1 of this post compiles all my answers in the first half of this December.

Dec 1 : Ideal december read ?

I am not a seasonal reader. My reading patterns vary hugely. One month I will be reading about the famines in the last century. The next month I may be reading about a bird that tries to fly higher than its species. Generally, I don't plan my reading. I chance upon books. And absorb all experiences that books give me. This december, I chanced upon two interesting Tamil books. One is a translation (originally written in Malayalam). Both are fiction but of completely different genres. One book is about a middle-aged Malayali woman's life and the other is a fascinating story of many stories told by three story-tellers who go on a long journey in a single story :-)

Dec 2 : Most beautiful cover ?

This is the first cover that came to my mind when I searched my memory for an answer. Undoubtedly the best cover from all books that I have read.

Dec 3 : A book you identify with ? 

Several. In multiple dimensions. But I choose this book above all because in addition to me, a friend of mine had also pointed out that I resembled the Jonathan Livingston Seagull from this book to him. In fact, I came to know about this book only through this remark and read it smitten by a curiosity. I would be grateful to him forever for introducing me to this book. The seagull remains an inspiration to me till date.

Dec 4 : A book character you'd like to meet?

Henry Maxwell, a busy broker in one of O. Henry's short stories 'The Romance of a Busy Broker'. His absent-mindedness and the twist in the story have made him a very interesting character. In reality, I will be curious to see such an absent minded man. Some well-read Tamil movie maker had already created a character inspired by him in a Tamil movie. If you watch the Tamil comedy channels often, you might have seen Janagaraj acting as the absent minded guy with an unbeatable BGM.

Dec 5 : Wisest book you've ever read?

Usually, I do not re-read books. This is the only book that I have read twice so far. 'The Alchemist' - the book that inspired me to chase my dreams, that helped me to understand the grand design and that which helped me to connect with nature. I have a yearning to travel to a desert to experience the journey in this book.

Dec 6 : A book you keep going back to ?

Like I said, I do not typically read books again after the first read. But there is one author I keep going back to again and again. And each time I go to him with a question, he points me in the direction of the answer and challenges me to find the answer myself. Paulo Coelho!

Dec 7 : Your perfect winter read ?

Ah, I am not a season-specific reader. In fact, I don't even recollect a book where the winter played a major part in the setting. One distinct scene I remember from Paulo Coelho's Zahir where the hero has to face the cold desert all alone as a challenge. His master instructs him to let the chill enter into him and feel it and let his body embrace the chillness. He does so. Once his body and mind embrace the freezing chillness, he does not shiver any more. Whenever I have been in harsh winter conditions, this scene comes to my mind and I try to embrace the chill. Here is one such picture of me trying to embrace the chillness in Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim at an altitude of around 18,000 ft. 

Dec 8 : First book you ever remember reading ? 

Tom Sawyer. Pocket sized book. With big sized fonts. Read it when I was in 3rd grade or 4th grade. I felt good when I completed reading the book. It was the feeling of completing the first novel! I still remember the fence paint bluff that Tom Sawyer pulled on his friends. Clever fellow :-)

Dec 9 : A book that gives you the chills ?

If 'The Alchemist' is the book that showed me the best of sunshines, there is one book which almost made me a pessimist. The book was so powerful and dark that I felt like I could murder someone and walk away without being caught and more importantly, not feeling guilty at all. Arvind Adiga. 'The White Tiger'. 

Dec 10 : Favourite mythological tale ? 

I was reminded of this tale last saturday on watching the famous Adelaide Test match. This is the story of Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna, who bravely fought the war and impressed everybody in the senior ranks with his skill and aggression. Unfortunately, he would not settle for a draw and wanted an outright win even at the cost of a defeat. So he walked into the Chakra vyugam knowing that is tough to break out of it. He was pumped up to try and find his way out of the trap. He lost his partners one by one but still fought valiantly and gave shivers to the opposition before falling by the sword. If Abhimanyu had watched that match, he would have said 'Virat played like me'!

Dec 11 : A book that makes you want to write ? 

Almost every book that I read inspires me to write something. Sometimes I write about my experience reading the book. Sometimes I get a spark from some random sentence in a book and build on that lead to write some original piece of imagination. Sigmund Freud to Paulo Coelho - many books have inspired me to write. My blogs (both in Tamil and English) have a section dedicated to posts inspired by books. 

Dec 12 : A book character you want to marry ?

Poonguzhali. Ponniyin Selvan. What a woman! I fell in love with her even as I was reading the book. Such wit and charm. Such courage. Such individuality. Such sincerity and such emotional stability. Poonguzhali, will you marry me?

Dec 13 : A book that you have pretended to have read ? 

Joseph Murphy's 'The Power of your subconscious mind'. My dad gifted this book to me to read. I am never a fan of self-help but started this book for my dad. Of course I found the book interesting and I am still practising some learnings I took from the book with a significant impact in my life. But after the first 60 odd pages, the book went on a redundancy mode (like most self-help books) and hence I did not bother to finish the book. But whenever someone brings up this book, I have shamelessly claimed that I have read the book. 

Dec 14 : Your curl-up read? 

401 காதல் கவிதைகள் - குறுந்தொகை - ஓர் எளிய அறிமுகம் - சுஜாதா (தமிழ்) - For about 40 odd days, I read this book at the rate of 10 poems each day. Sangam literature and love! Truly loved that feeling. Love remains the same even after all these centuries. Sujatha's simple and easy adaptations to the book made the read even more interesting.

Dec 15 : Your favourite book series ?

There are a few contentions to this answer. Harry Potter. Ponniyin Selvan. Shiva Trilogy. All excellent series but Harry Potter makes it to this list because of it's magic. Yes, pun intended! Shiva Trilogy failed expectations in the climax. Otherwise, it was one brilliant piece. Ponniyin Selvan is a flawless series with people discussing about certain open ended portions in the book even now. That is the writer's power. But Potter scores above all because of the distinct connect that Hogwarts gave to me. In fact, I have even written a post explaining how reading the Harry Potter series helped me personally in my entrepreneurial life


(To be continued)

Images sourced from Google images. 

Sep 1, 2014

Being nobody to anybody - a ride to Pondicherry seeking inspiration for art

I had an item on my bucket list ever since college. I wanted a solo vacation to some place where I have never been before, all in solitude. Being nobody to anybody. If possible, living a whole new life for a few days in that place. What if I had only enough money for travelling one way to that place and had to earn the money to come back? I can wait tables, work as salesman in bookshops or do whatever that I must/can do to earn my return ticket. Well, that grand plan is still in the bucket list. But very recently, I managed to draw a dotted line on this item in the bucket list.

Back in college, I discussed this plan with friends and a few were actually curious about the idea. One such friend who even contemplated this escape into anonymity is now lined up for a wedding and I am skeptical if he would ever get to take this vacation. Quite recently, a few rounds of routine overdose in life was pushing me for an escape to recharge and come back. Plus, I can just wake up one morning and pick up my bike's keys and go. Thus, I started riding three days back. Pondicherry was in my mind. Not a very long ride to boast for a biker from Chennai but a scenic ride along the ECR and definitely in the list for an unwinding ride. Of course, I had enough money to return back. I am not taking that adventure yet :-)

In solitude, I started riding to Pondicherry. Whenever I go on long rides like this, I imagine myself as playing a long Test match innings like Rahul Dravid. Patience and focus and enjoying the ride. I ride at a steady pace, always focussing on only the next turn and covering short stretches mentally. You need to pace your ride just like you pace an innings. I was curious about Auroville for some time and I had it in the back of my mind. I even crossed sign boards to Auroville even before reaching Pondicherry. Nevertheless, I entered Pondicherry. I rode around the streets aimlessly wondering where to go and what to do. This is where a crazy idea stuck me. Remember the part about living a new life, just for a fleeting few days?

I entered a stationery shop and bought a few chart papers and basic painting kit. I rolled the charts and kept them in my bag but still visible outside. I decided to call myself an artist. Disclaimer: Prior experience with art for me is limited to drawing the mountains and sea and the house with the adjacent coconut tree in third standard. Still, in a stroke of imagination, I became an artist in Pondicherry seeking inspiration for his art in solitude. I decided to reduce conversations with people as much as possible and experience peace. I rode around the beach and sat on the beach for a good hour. A group of youngsters asked me to take a pic of them. Looking at my bag they asked if I was an architect since I was carrying charts and all. I told them I am an artist looking for inspiration for my art. "Paathaale theriyudu boss" - they replied and went along. See? It is simple. Go to a new place. Tell them that you are a rocket scientist. They will believe. Who bothers? (By the way, as I sat there in the beach staring into the horizon, a poem bubbled inside me. I penned it in Tamil later. It might be an interesting read if you are into Tamil and poetry.)

As I was strolling, I spotted a boutique run by Auroville and I walked in to check for any accommodation. Fortunately, the man there suggested an irresistible place for me - a guest house in the middle of a quiet jungle at Kuilapalayam village en route Auroville. A few calls were made and my halt was finalized. The guest house, I must say is a step closer to bliss compared to any other place I have ever been to. That much silence! That much peace. I stayed in the first floor portion with a huge balcony, surrounded by trees and birds with one hanging rope chair tied to a tree. Wow! Of course, I introduced myself as the artist in solitude there too.

For two days I stayed in that guest house conversing mostly with trees, birds, flowers, my bike, sea and very limitedly to humans. In all, I would have spoken around fifty sentences in total. I did not switch off my phone. I wondered if I should do that, lest people spoil the adventure. I just chose to let it go and observe. In total, six people called me and just one person texted me. That's all! Two whole days. Only we think we are always busy and we will get hundred phone calls a day. Slip out of the routine silently for a short while and nobody will observe.

Living up to my new identity, I even tried my hand at art. I just enjoyed playing with colours and tried something new without bothering anything about the results with a child-like curiosity. I managed to do three abstract pieces of art - that's how I would like to call them. Art in a language that only I and the paper will understand; a language through colours and direct thoughts. It was an amazing indulgence.

The ride to Pondicherry - Art by GS

Thrice a day, for food I came out of the jungle to the nearby village and there I enquired the locals about Pichavaram Mangrove forests, a place I have only heard of. I fancied a ride to Pichavaram as a crescendo for this trip. It sounded like a short ride from there. So the next morning, I bade farewell to the guest house and the trees and started riding. Rahul Dravid mode again. Pondicherry to Pichavaram (closer to Chidambaram). I reached the boat house as early as 8 30 AM in a Kadai epo saar thorapeenga style. Boats were just beginning to go into the backwaters and I joined with two interesting men from Bangalore who were very jovial conversationalists. Our boat's driver, a strong man who rowed the boat with his hands, explained to us about the forests and the place and took us on a two hour boat ride. We spotted a few characteristic animals and birds of the mangrove forests and spent the two hours in a very interesting casual conversation with strangers. I needed this conversation to come out of the enforced silence of the past two days to fit back into the society.

By noon today, I started the ride back to Chennai with the road and my bike for company. In a decent ride of around 250 km, I reached Chennai by evening. Photo stoppages were here and there of course. Tomorrow is a monday morning and I hope this little escape will put me in good shape back into the routine. It all looks like a dream for me to recollect the trip now from my study room. The artist may perhaps emerge sometime later again in another escape into anonymity.

As I narrated all this to the room mates this evening - the silence, anonymity, artist bluff, Pichavaram, solo ride - a friend gave me a long stare and said that I need to go and visit some psychiatrist. Of course I am crazy. I am proud of that :-)