Saturday, 17 September, 2011

Shiva Trilogy.




















I am itching to write again, which I have to admit hasn't happened for some time now.

So I have decided to review Immortals of Meluha and Secret of the Nagas. Infact, it is more than just a review, in the sense that I want to also discuss the philosophies Amish Tripathi has mentioned in the two of the three now-released books, which are a part of the trilogy.

I read Immortals of Meluha pretty late, as in long after it had been released and had already gone on to become a best-seller, but when I read it, I felt it was a brilliant justification for the mythology which I have otherwise come to disbelieve.

The books are based on the life of Shiva, not the Lord Shiva but a common man who takes the form of a lord only because of a belief among the people that the Neelkanth or the person who has a blue throat would turn up to be their savior. And so the Suryavanshis are perpetually in search of such a man and come across a person named Shiva who heads a tribe near the Mount Kailasa.

The Suryavanshis already possess excellent medicinal skills and also the Sanjeevni which is known to cure most illnesses. One effect of taking this medicine is that the blue throat of Shiva becomes highly visible. The people believe that he is their Lord who has been sent to 'save' them and help them fight the 'evil' that the Nagas and the Chandravanshis are spreading. Also, he meets his Sati.

At this point, I'd like to quote from the Immortals of Meluha:

Whether a man is a legend or not is decided by history, not by fortune tellers.

I found a few pretty profound statements in the book. And this is definitely one of them!

In the Immortals, Shiva goes on to believe everything the Suryavanshis tell him at face value about 'good' and 'evil' and helps them defeat the 'evil' Chandravanshis in a full blown war. He also comes to believe that the Nagas are the most evil.

What Amish says in the Secret of the Nagas can be summed up in a couple of lines.

There are two ways of life: Masculine and Feminine.

Masculine way of life is "life by laws". People live by Truth, Duty and Honour, rigidly following all rules and laws with no exceptions and hence it is a predictable way of life. Change is difficult for the masculine, therefore when a masculine civilisation declines it causes a lot of turmoil, violence and chaos. Suryavanshis strictly follow this way of life.

Feminine way of life is "life by probabilities". There are no absolutes, and the same laws can be interpreted differently at different times. Change is the only constant, and people live by Passion, Beauty and Freedom. But with too much freedom it can decline into decadence, corruption and debauchery. Chandravanshis prefer this way of life.

At an individual level also, both masculine and feminine traits exist within every man and woman. But most people have a dominant trait of the two.

Err.. okay not a couple of lines! But I guess you get the point. So the part about 'good' and 'evil' is where it gets a lot more philosophical.

First, it is all about perception, about which side of the fence you're facing. Second, one can simply not exist without another!

Evil cannot and should not be destroyed completely. That is, it only needs to be taken out of the equation at the right time, the time when it rises to cause total annihilation. Because the same evil may serve the purpose of Good in another time.

For most of the time, I found myself nodding to the philosophy stated in the books. Right from depicting 'GOD' as not somebody on a pedestal but as a human being who has his fallacies to marrying fiction with mythology! Shiva has been depicted as a 'cool dude' as one of my friends puts it, with a chillum in his hand, smoking marijuana, behaving like a college-guy in love, making mistakes and being unsure, and actually wondering why being not-materialistic is so overrated; and not as what we have been made to believe what God is.

This entire blend has made these books what they are. There is one more quote which is so applicable especially in our society.

If the entire society was conscious of its duties, nobody would need to fight for their individual rights. Since everybody's rights would be automatically taken care of through someone else's duties.

These books are more than just mythology or just fiction, because they're not Amar Chitra Katha, they're not bed-time stories, but they're definitely a refreshing point of view, a very different perspective and a fresher way of expression. It is not even as if we're unaware of all these things, or haven't thought about them, but seeing everything bound together with sheer brilliance is amazing!

I'll leave you with another something from the book.

Believe the theory that gives you peace and reject the one that causes you pain.

So, to each his own I guess.

P.S. Just out of curiosity, I am wondering if someone will land here through a search on marijuana ;)

Sunday, 4 September, 2011

Aivei...

After quite a long time, I am looking at this interface... and this time not coz I was busy, it is coz I was toooo free :P Do I crib... or DO I crib!!?

22 April as the day of my previous post seems so long back! And not that I haven't written anything, just that nothing ended up on the blog...

And at the moment I am out of topics to write about. And I have anyway been instructed to write about myself, and not some book or movie or political issue. *points at Mads aka Madhuri Iyer*

So... I have been cooped up for like, fifteen days now, and that is enough to make me go crazy... because I hate sitting and doing nothing! And now, finally with the German classes starting tomorrow, I have something to look forward to.

But... the upshot is, I got to connect and re-connect with a few people on so many levels! :D Funny how the dynamics of relations change!

And... I finally finished reading Fault Lines by Raghuram Rajan, a little high level economics as had been duly conveyed to me before I started reading, but well, with a few terms still unexplained, I did manage to finish it. Also, I finished Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi and according to me, it is a 'bloody brilliant book in which he has managed to philosophize, blend fiction with mythology and create a thriller all at the same time', and it has resulted in me ordering the second part of the trilogy, which will be be delivered in a day or two I suppose.

For those of you yet unfamiliar with the concept of 'book delivery', go to flipkart.com ;) And now they should pay me for advertising :P

There are some really awesome sitcoms I have gotten hooked to... The Big Bang Theory and White Collar, both of which won't start airing further episodes for another month or so I guess. :-s So another 'something' I have to wait for... like a lot of other things. It is a pretty frustrating period!

And especially for the Nagpur junta... if you come to know of some really interesting workshops, keep me posted please. :) :)

This is as much I can write about myself without going on to being narcissistic.

So I suppose I am going to return with some issue or review. Sooner or later... :-w

Friday, 22 April, 2011

Before you circulate that petition...

A few days back on twitter, a conversation with @corruptupa took place, initiated by them, tweeting to me the same thing they've tweeted to a thousand others.

Here's how it goes:
corruptupa @akansha_89 85+ people have signed petition against @bdutt of @ndtv. Have you? read & support @YKSHEETAL .Petition@ http://goo.gl/CvuRH

@corruptupa and what will you do with the petition? frame it on my wall? huh!

corruptupa @akansha_89 How ignorant can you be?

@corruptupa I'm not ignorant.I'm tired of signing petitions which go nowhere.Put your name on a piece of paper and your responsibility ends?

They haven't replied yet. I didn't expect one either.

But that is not my point. My point is simply what I mention in my last tweet. You issue a petition for what you call a national cause, and maybe you believe it too. I do not contest the belief, but what I do object to, is the fact that you issue no credible reasons for the same when you're asking me to share that belief.

It's not just about this one, signing the petition to support Hazare was a fashion rage, everybody was rushing to do it, because everybody else was doing it. Every second link on my facebook page showed the massive support Hazare and his campaign were getting! Why is it that people don't stop to read, understand, form an opinion, and consider opinions of people who are qualified enough to give them?

How many of them actually knew that there were two bills, one proposed by the government and the other by the Hazare people? What is the guarantee that the head of the Lokpal Committee will be above corruption? Will the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha actually let the bill pass, given the fact that it goes against themselves!? Doesn't it look like a lot of politics? Gimmicks? Hasn't Hazare's biggest supporter Ramdev baba publicly aired his intention of entering politics and creating a new party for himself? Questions galore, questions to which you had to demand proven answers, before you could even think about signing that petition.

Also it brings me to the next factor, where is this petition going? To the President? I doubt she has an email address! PMO? but you're including him. SC judges? they aren't above the bill either. So call it trivial, but in all, all you ended up doing was increasing the load on the servers.

Now let's talk about the bill.

I am the last person on the earth who will defend the ministers on allegations of corruption, but understand that there is a difference between allegations and charges. You can't charge someone until you have proof, and if you have the proof, the gates of the courts are open! Contest it! Fight it! Prove it! And till you can't, you can be opinionated, you can be critical, but you still can't be the judge.

I don't have a solution to the problem, and there I see people going, well if you don't have a solution, why don't you at least support what someone else is trying to do in order to improve the situation...? But that is exactly my point!! When, in the wide world did you stop thinking for yourself? Just because it looks good does not mean it has to be? Whatever happened to reading, mulling it over, figuring it out, with facts, figures, statistics?

About corruption itself? Well, if you're so eager to see corrupt ministers leave politics, can you suggest some who are not? If you're given that post tomorrow, will you refuse the crore rupees? Won't you think that if you have made the future of your kids secure, you've done something with your life? Of course that does not justify corruption, nor should it! But at least at the lower rungs if you start offering better salaries and retirement benefits, would you not be removing that reason to accept the bribe?

In my opinion, bribes are taken for two reasons. One is to secure the future. Second is because everybody knows even if you're found out, nobody remembers it beyond a few days.

To conclude, I think that if everybody understood that one line from Spiderman (at least that's where I heard it first) for all that it stands for, the world, or at least the country would be an infinitely better place to live in.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Those with power, take the responsibility. And give the power to those who are responsible.

Enough Said!

Thursday, 27 January, 2011

Mask, Unmask...


Look at her, so easy to err,
Calm writ on face, no breach on surface,
Twinkle in the eye, silences that sigh,
Ghost of a smile, once in a while.

The benign unwavering, a tranquility unnerving,
The ready ear, the false cheer,
The patient nod, a quiet prod,
The private barricade, a public facade.

Concern for opinion, renders a minion,
Once bitten twice shy, grins... they belie,
So tough to explore, so easy to ignore,
Fear of betray, that's the dossier.

Story untold, a barrage behold,
A storm building, the anger splashing,
The emotions frothing,the tears stinging,
The remarks scathing, the lips? Smiling....

Tuesday, 25 January, 2011

Shadow Lines...

I think it is time for a new post, and this is not so much a book review as a book summary. Erm... view it as something like a book club, because I am going to include excerpts from the book which particularly intrigued me and which I found very profound; and my interpretations of the same.

Now as the title must have revealed, this post revels around the book Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh, who has managed to spear-head his way into my list of favourite authors, both Indian and otherwise. Two other books which have held my attention are Hungry Tide and The Glass Palace.

Amitav has a way of depicting places in the North east, Burma and Bangladesh in a way that makes the story feel very grounded, which is what mesmerizes me.

Anyway, the area ahead is cordoned off for you, if you haven't read the book, or at least consider it a spoiler alert (I can't control your cursor obviously :P )

Well, first of all, I think the title itself is misleading or at least it intrigues you, because one can't readily figure out what Shadow Lines refers to. Shadow Lines refers to the boundaries of the countries, the supposed lines that divide the giant mass of water-free fraction of the globe.

The story is set in the era of the World War II, and the story jumps back and forth on the protagonist's lifetime's timeline. The protagonist lives in Calcutta with his parents and grandmother, and his grandmother's sister and her family also form an important part of the narrative. Tribid, one of her sons and his uncle, is very close to him, and once when Tribid was showing him photographs of the time he spent in London when his father was ill and they were staying with a kind lady whose husband was an acquaintance, he talks about the fact that they and their friends knew about the impending dangers of the war, the constant bombing and the destruction...

The realities of the bombs and torpedoes and the dying was easy enough to imagine- mere events, after all, recorded in thousands of films and photographs and comic books. But not that infinitely more important reality: the fact that they knew, that even walking down the street that evening, they knew what was coming- not the details or the timing perhaps, but they knew, all four of them, that their world, and in all probability they themselves, would not survive the war. What is the colour of that knowledge? Nobody knows, nobody can ever know, not even in memory, because there are moments in time that are not 'knowable': nobody can ever know what it was like to be young and intelligent in the summer of 1939 in London or Berlin.

Now, I find this very profound because although the author has emphasised upon the power of imagination, and has asserted that it is one of the most important qualities that one can possess, he says that knowledge is something intangible. One can visualise a lot of corporeal things, but what shall you do of that, whose only record can be in that stuff between the ears...

The author has a cousin named Ila, who chooses to stay in London, and once when she is confronted as to why she chooses to stay not in her own country but that of the foreigners, she answers that she wants to be free, free of the bloody culture, and free of all people she feels are hypocrites because even though they (her uncle who is the same age as the author and not much older to her) would like their freedom, and are not in the least disturbed when they consume alcohol or go to parties, they want the women (Ila) to not do the same... A book written in 1988, speaks volumes for two decades (and counting) into the future.

His grandmother has a different opinion though:

Ila has no right to live there. She doesn't belong there. It took those people a long time to build their country; hundreds of years, years and years of war and bloodshed. Everyone who lives there has earned his right to be there with blood: with their brother's blood, with their father's blood, with their son's blood. They will know they're a nation because they have drawn their borders with blood. Regimental flags hang in their cathedrals and churches are lined with memorials to men who died in wars, all around the world. War is their religion. That's what it takes to make a country. Once that happens, people forget they were born this or that, Muslim or Hindu, Bengali or Punjabi; they become a family born of the same pool of blood. That is what you have to achieve for India.

When the author talks about the class of people, where education is considered to be one of the key ingredients of a youngster's life, he says:

The only weapon that people like us had was our brains, and if we didn't use them like claws to cling to what we'd got, that was where we'd end up, marooned in that landscape.

And when he talks about 'that landscape' he says:

I was already well schooled in looking away, the jungle craft of gentility.

The geographical reference is to a slum-like area that he happens to visit with his grandmother, to meet a distant impoverished relative. And the education-is-the-key is I believe, self explanatory.

When the author is talking about the mobs during a riot that takes place in Calcutta, when he is in school, his description goes thus:

There is a uniquely frightening note in the sound of those voices- not elemental, not powerful, like the roar of an angry crowd- rather, a torn, ragged quality; a crescendo of discords which you know, because of the slippery formlessness of the fear it creates within you, to be the authentic sound of chaos the moment you hear it.

This creates such a bang-on visualisation! Almost cinematic...

And at another instance:

The streets had turned themselves inside out: our city had turned against us.

It is this that sets apart the thousand million people who inhabit the subcontinent from the rest of the world- not language, not food, not music- it is the special quality of loneliness that grows out of the fear of war between oneself and one's image in the mirror.

The madness of riot is a pathological inversion, but also therefore a reminder, of that indivisible sanity that binds people to each other independently of their governments. And that prior, independent relationship is the natural enemy of government, for it is in the logic of states that to exist at all, they must claim monopoly of all relationships between people. The theatre of war, where generals meet, is the stage on which the states disport themselves: they have no use for the memories of riots.

A grown up author picks up old newspapers once to find out news reports about the riots which were held in his city, and which got reverberated in Bangladesh as well, where his grandmother and Tribid were, and in the event, Tribid became a victim of the mob, getting lynched by the anomie, one that had long forgone rationality. This was during the time when Bangladesh was struggling to lose its identity as East Pakistan.

There is nothing quite as evocative as an old newspaper. There is something in its urgent contemporaneity- the weather reports, the list of that day's engagement in the city, the advertisement for half remembered films, still crying out in bold print as though it were all happening now, today- and the feeling besides, that one may once have handled, if not that very paper, then it's exact likeness, its twin, which transports one in time as nothing else can.

The author finds himself very disturbed by these reports and all those memories of the riots and the death of Tridib. So he picks up an atlas and a compass and placing the sharp tip at Khulna (about a hundred miles from Calcutta) and the pencil end at Srinagar, he draws a circle on the map, and learns the meaning of distance.

The simple fact that there had never been a moment in the four-thousand-year-old history of that map, when the places we know as Dhaka and Calcutta were more closely bound to each other than after they had drawn their lines- so closely that I, in Calcutta, had only to look into the mirror to be in Dhaka; a moment when each city was the inverted image of the other, locked into an irreversible symmetry by the line that was to set us free- our looking glass-border.

And: How can anyone divide a memory...?

The book is well written, a very intense narrative and a spot on message.

P.S. I am really not jobless. But this post is equivalent to marking your favorite abstracts from the text so you can re-visit them.