Monday, 31 March 2014

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

From The Life of William Grimes to the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, slavery in fiction and reality is not something thats easily digestible to the modern man, it makes him flinch with disgust and the details churns his stomach in ways detestable. 12 Years a slave is the autobiography of a freeman, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery and redeemed 12 years later. Solomon Northrup lived in a time of great turmoil (which eventually culminated in the American Civil War) when the american consciousness was torn between freedom and slavery, with the southern states supporting strongly the institution of slavery and the northern states strongly condemning the devilish practice. What happened of it is a matter of history and of little importance to the book.

Solomon Northup was born to a freeman and spent his childhood working in his fathers farm, later he went on to move to Minerva after his marriage. The rest of the particulars of his life again is academic in nature now. He was a carpenter by profession, an educated, trained and unsuspecting man, who was lured by two strangers with the promise of a more rewarding job and then sold into slavery in the slave pens of New Orleans. The one thing that differentiated this man from the rest of the slaves around him was the fact that he knew what freedom meant, a fact that he had to conceal cleverly due to the fear of punishment and torture.

Solomon's narrative of his on experience as a slave is mostly objective but it brims with a feeling of distance towards the whole of life. His need or desire to be as much away from the most torturous 12 years of his life is easily reflected in his writing. Its neither flowery nor flaunting oratory of any nature, just an observation of what he had to endure and how he did so. His account of life he saw happen around hims and what it meant to him. The most wonderful thing about Solomon's narrative is that he didn't demonize the villains in his story, they were definitely villains but he reserved crude judgements to a very appreciable degree. 

The book '12 years a slave' by Solomon Northup is a good old slave narrative that objectively illustrates the life of a slave and his livelihood through the eyes of a freeman that he was. The book offers a clear perspective into the working of the institution of slavery and explains why the masters behaved as they did and for what end. Solomon explains that not all his masters were cruel and each had his own on way getting what they wanted form his slaves, from treated them a little as men and others terrified them. some gave them little comforts and rewards others gave them nothing and kept them that way.

Buy your copy at 

In association with 'Pirates' A Publishing House.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Adorable Kittens by Anand

More pictures from my brother of his adorable kittens who are unfortunately no more.

The adorable kittens photographed by brother, the Ansel Adams of our clan.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Man Who Took the Train to Pakistan

It is always a sad and unfortunate event that a wordsmith of his caliber must pass away but as the inherent nature of things goes one who is born must one day die. He doesn't have anything to complain about though for he got a pretty long quantum of quality life. The very best any man can do is to leave a mark on the face of earth and be remembered and be alive through history. The honorable Khushwant Singh, the man with much malice has did just that, he may have left his body and unified with the ultimate but a part of him he left in each one us, each one of us who had enjoyed his jokes and cherished his Train to Pakistan or The Company of Women. 

The first book I read of his was hood book of jokes, they were all hilarious and one's whose humor you could savor for a long time after the first reading. Much later did I come across his prime jewel 'The Train to Pakistan', to read that book was an entirely different and surreal experience. A book that brought out the reality of partition and the things it left broken in its wake. The least of his books that I read was 'The Company of Women' and yet again a different book, one that me to look at things differently of what the company of an women meant to me. 

Shri Khushwant Singh Ji had touched me in his own unique way and his literature and his ideology of vocal and objective expression of difference has influenced me a lot in my journey. There was a time I wished I could meet him and get his autograph, but that will never be I guess. Yesterday India lost one of it's very best writer and columnist and I grieve along with the nation at our combined loss. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Love Diet by Shonali Sabherwal

The very first impression of The Love Diet by Shonali Sabherwal india's best nutritionologist was of disappointment as the book was of questionable quality. Considering that it comes with a 250 Indian rupee price tag ( that's approximately a little now than 4 US dollars), I was disappointed at the off white or rather brownish paper and the less than premium front cover that the book featured. The paper brightness severely affects and compromises the readability and the feel of the book.  What surprised me further is the fact that the book came from the stables of a globally reputed publishing house such as Random House. The book reflects very badly on them a degree greater than it does on anyone else.

But then again a book must not be judged by it's cover or it's paper quality alone but by the quality of the matter it's pages contain. Ms Shonali starts off with a lengthy description of the eastern history of medicine and it's many interpretations be it the yin and yang from China or the chakras from India. She goes on to elaborate the need for balance of forces and how food can achieve it and how food can in turn affect and alter your essential balance. Now history and information is good but where it goes out of hand is when it lasts for almost two thirds of the book and that's when it borders and then slowly crosses into rhetoric. She goes on and on about the nature of relationships and out of place rhetorics about mind and body and the healing power of the soul. Almost always they are the things that we are constantly hearing. But she does have some interesting sections of popular myth busting and much needed classifications on food habits.

The 130 page rhetoric lecture does finally  move into the much awaited section on recipes of love and healing. Some them are quite interesting and not mention extremely delicious and mouth watering even on paper.  Fascinating. If you ask me this is what I will say as the most appealing part of the whole book is to me. This is what the book was about and what all the drum roll led up-to. But again here  I feel that much more could have been done. Brief descriptions of how the recipe works and why it's a love dish could have be more promising and useful than all of the 130 page rhetoric on things that already everyone knows and nobody gives a damn about.

My final verdict for the book is simple, it's not all a waste of money and effort. But at the same time much more could have be done to make the book a far better one. Frankly the book just feels out of place in it's avatar, its a coffee book trapped in a textbook. Random house turned what is clearly a coffee table book containing a lot of colorful dishes and their recipes complete with short meaningful descriptions of how they enhance you and your love into pages and pages of bubbling rhetoric on a less than impressive packaging.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Best of 200

This would be the 201th post (to be precise) I write during a long and very eventful life as a blogger spanning little than half a decade. When I started my blog with a very small, ill thought out introduction of myself (The link to "An Intro" if you are really curious) I never thought I would reach here and more importantly I would hold onto this passion for long. There were times I was lost and times I forgot the blog altogether, but like every time life took me places there was something deep within me that longed to be back. It always felt a sense of belonging here, within the pages of my blogs.

There were some wonderful times and there were some times of despair, but I kept and it and it has rewarded me, not with page views and meaningless numbers but with some unique and special friends. Just knowing that they are there to read what I write makes me want to write better, they have themselves unknowingly became my beloved muse and my gifted critics. I submit my achievement to you guys (you know who you are).

There below is the best of my very best as what my readers like in the order they like. Curious thing though The post no 50 I published to celebrate my 50th post years ago happens to be one among them. Oh and I do have a couple of favorites in the lot too. First being 731 Days of Frivolous Love and So She Came and So She Went.

Thank you my dear friends, critics, acquaintances and occasional trespassers, Thank you all, I would never have achieved this without you all, quite literally. 

By the way I will write one more post when I complete my 5th year of blog writing.

Aug 22, 2012, 

Oct 7, 2012, 

Sep 15, 2012, 

Nov 8, 2011, 

Jul 3, 2012, 

Apr 19, 2012, 

May 9, 2012, 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Castle full of Books

Courtesy : ArchitecturalDesign 

Over the hills and above the winds, far beyond the citadels of heaven. In a land of transcential tranquility and ever lasting peace lies my perfect little castle. Up in theses heavens of mind, through giant wooden doors and winding paths ever so long stands my perfect little castle. Over the lush country meadows and overlooking celestial gardens stands my perfect little castle. One that is made not of the finest granite but yet is embellished in celestial opulence. Casted in iron and furnished with english brown oak, smelling of the sweet rustic aroma of aged paper and ink. In wooden shelves so high and written works so mighty, stands clinging to each a wall, a million books and its eternal thoughts. my perfect little castle, abode to my perfect little dream.

Show you around this magnificent castle in my dreams I shall, but of all the rooms of one is all I ever dream. Past the grand halls and its antique chandeliers, past the winding stairs and the dimly lit path ways, lies the room of my dreams. With ceilings so high that the stars could peek through and windows through which clouds could come and go. On its windows lashes the rains of many years and in its hearth kindles the great fire of knowledge itself. Smelling of paper and ink, the musk of the intellectual heart and filled with aroma of the wisdom of all ages.  In its centre amidst the many piles of books lies a little chair, one that is cosy and one that is warm. It is here where I sit and bask in the glory of my splendid dream. Sitting there with a steaming cup of coffee at my arms length, a book in my arms and cuddled into the heart of the cushions is I.

There are tall wooden shelves everywhere, each with a million books and ladders that can reach the skies. With a mahogany desk for me to write and many a quills of thousand plumage for my thoughts to flow through. With the flickering light of my hearth I read, like in the time of a greater awakening. When giants of words roamed the land and ideas with wings began to fly. This is where I place the fireman's nightmare, this where I dream my dream in a time in past when many a legends graced the the land. This is my dream, my perfect dream, my dream of my  perfect little castle. 

This is my dream, my perfect dream, my dream of my perfect little castle, little castle of the books.

As part of IndiSpire : An initiative by IndiBlogger

Friday, 14 March 2014

Achilles and the Tortoise

I have many varied interests, some of them you know, Some of them I know, some I dare not admit to myself and some may well forever remain unidentified. But of all of them one is a curious liking to obscure paradoxes. I like the inconclusivity of them, the sheer reluctance of them to conclude to something, the ambiguity they persists and the infinite admiration that it invokes. Be it the time travelers paradox that effectively renders him a silent spectator of ages past or the Achilles paradox pointed out by the greek philosopher Zeno that is so obviously untrue yet mathematics require obscure concepts to prove it so. I take pride in the fact that these concepts are elusive and obscure to many it makes sense to me.

Now the paradox of Achilles I'd something that captured my imagination for sometime now, I will let my readers enjoy and revel in it's magnificence while I go and pen down something worth while.

In the paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise, Achilles is in a footrace with the tortoise. Achilles allows the tortoise a head start of 100 metres, for example. If we suppose that each racer starts running at some constant speed (one very fast and one very slow), then after some finite time, Achilles will have run 100 metres, bringing him to the tortoise's starting point. During this time, the tortoise has run a much shorter distance, say, 10 metres. It will then take Achilles some further time to run that distance, by which time the tortoise will have advanced farther; and then more time still to reach this third point, while the tortoise moves ahead. Thus, whenever Achilles reaches somewhere the tortoise has been, he still has farther to go. Therefore, because there are an infinite number of points Achilles must reach where the tortoise has already been, he can never overtake the tortoise.

PS : I was so lazy that I effectively copied the while definition of this paradox outright from Wikipedia.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Rise of the Sun Prince - Shubha Vilas

The Rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas is essentially the part one (Bala Kanda) of the indian scripture Ramayana as written by the sage Valmiki, mixed with a few anecdotes and embellishments from the Kamba Ramayana (another version of the sacred text). I am not here to write a commentary on the scripture, it has been returned way too many times. As far as my review of Ramayana goes I will just for a line from this book. "Ramayana is not a book, it is a way of life".

Unlike the numerous renditions of the epic out there, what makes this one stand out is a set of essential yet simple qualities. The book is simple yet elaborate, the story is decomposed just enough for the casual reader to understand and yet it is sophisticated enough to prevent itself from being turned into yet another soulless recital. Vilas has added more than enough description and commentary to the age old tale that at times it's just annoying to see the sheer volume of his commentary wrestling out the epic out of it's own pages.

The story is retold with much detail and sans boring rhetoric. This is not a book for serious and concerned study of Ramayana, but it is all you would want if the aim is to reread the fables or just to tell your kids the famous bedtime story of India. This is the book that you could want your children to read if you want them to be part of that wonderful world of kings, queens and the many many adventures that you were once part of.

This book comes with a rather colorful front- page and spills on to about 250 pages. Jaico does a good job with the packaging and delivers the content for a sum of 250 Indian rupees (that's hardly 4 dollars and odd cents). yep books in India are rather cheap. My verdict is that it's a good book to have for your kids to read and for you to casually brush up the story.

Disclaimer : The above review of The Rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas has been written in association with Jaico Publishing House.