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Book Review: Lolita

I know a lot of you would have heard about this book. And a lot less would have actually read it. For some reason, a lot of people term this as ‘erotica’. I won’t lie, but going by the popular opinion around, even I held a similar opinion. And now that I’ve read it, I can definitely say, it’s far from that.

Notwithstanding the perversion of the narrator, and the uneasiness that this story creates, terming Lolita as another erotica would be missing out on a beautifully written tale. The words are nothing short of magical and weave a story that shocks and horrifies you.

The dark humor at play keeps you hooked on to the words in the first half of the book. As you move towards the culmination, the story does get draggy. But perhaps that’s because your intrigue is limited to ‘what all Humbert will do’ and not living in his head, unlike any other protagonist. Humbert is different, as you’ll come to know.

I don’t want to tell you what the story is, for the fear that it might put you off from reading this. We all are prudish in our own ways, I guess? But you should give this one a shot. The way this has been written will make you enjoy the beauty of the written word more. It did to me, at least.

Apart from Humbert, you don’t get to dive into the heads of no other character. Not even Lolita. All you’re left with are questions. Questions on how they thought of all of this? Not that there are many other characters. It’s all about Humbert and his Nymphet. Or as Humbert called it, his Lolita.

Few of the characters that Nabokov creates don’t appear more than caricatures added to keep the story moving. Perhaps, the centricity of Lolita’s obsession by Humbert is what the author wanted to present here.

Lolita makes you swing between the conflict of morality and aesthetics. Nabokov makes your to-and-fro conflicted with his brilliant wordplay.

Humbert is narcissistic, a paedophile, and out there to only look after his own needs. There’s background as to why it would have ended up this weekend way, but that still doesn’t substantiate the conflict. Humbert as well as the reader is clear on the morality of it all.

Stories are stories, irrespective of whether it fits our moral compass or not. Lolita is one such story.

Of Hate

of hate

It’s powerful. Powerful enough to make people blind. Blindly giving away their humanity to the whispers of the devil on their shoulders. A strong resolve to avenge or teaching ‘them’ a lesson. The shape wriggling itself out like a reptile finding its way in the sand. You see its head, but not the tail. When you finally see the tail, the head morphs into plurality. Each spewing venom in multitudes. The whispers are gone. They’re hissing aloud.

You’re still not scared.

We’ll stop them when they’re done with ‘them’.

They’re not done with them. Not yet. The lessons have just started. It’s all about reforming them. To show them their place. Them.

Let’s call them 1. Let’s call them 2. Let’s call them 4. Let’s call them what is not us.

Their way of life is wrong. Offensive. Insensitive. Ours is the righteous path. The one to whom this land belongs. The one true owner of this landmass. Not them. Definitely not them. The outsiders. They will remain so ever.

The hisses are far gone. The whispers blare out louder with each passing day.

Where will you go now?

“Are they still not done with “them”?

Not yet, you dim-wit.

The hate is strong in this one.

Book Review: One Hundred Years Of Solitude

It’s easy to get lost in the confusion of similar names of characters of the Buendia family over generation when they all start living lives reminiscing another generation. It’s good that they added a family tree to revisit whenever the reader gets confused.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is fascinating. Not only because of the magical realism at play but how realistically believable the events are structured by placing chunks of real-world evolution of our society over decades. From simpler times with no governments to influx of gypsies showing magical inventions to the start of capitalism, the book is a humangous journey with the founding family of the place called Mocondo. The Buendia family, has their own set ways which has a tendency of repeating incidences with every generation. A huge credit to this goes to the names: Arcadio and Aureliano, Remedios and Amaranta. And other possible combination that come out of it.

There’s just no suspense in the stories. Before you read about a character, you already know when and how they’re going to die. The build up, of each character, is always good but without culminating into anything towards the end. Gone, just like that. And there’s a series of it. Just when you thought you’re starting to get attached to a character, they’re gone. All that’s left with each is the solitude they bring along before they meet their eventual end.

The absurdity is magical. The reiteration of the cyclical fate that every generation will phase is prophetic and the reader vaguely understands that and yet the book keeps you interested in the mundane. You question the mundane and believe the magic. That’s the beauty of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

It’s not a page turner that’ll keep you addicted but would tingle your senses when you take little breaks in-between. And perhaps that’s needed and where this book becomes critical. It helps you draw parallels with world developments and society’s progress. No wonder this doesn’t feel aged at all.

From among a lot of things I liked, what fascinated me the most was how the author would take you through a setting. Like, describing the room like a strapped-on camera with just one view port sequentially describing everything on its path.

One hundred years of solitude is a book you can pick up from in-between, read a few pages and still enjoy.

Mission Impossible : Fallout – Movie Review

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch and get entertained. And nothing else.

This franchise is not going to self-destruct itself anytime soon. And if you don’t have time to read any of what I write here, just go watch it. MI:Fallout is pure entertainment. Synonymous with what it has always brought, except maybe 2 of those?

Fallout grounds the storyline by giving credence to the believable Ethan Hunt who’ll falter and yet (somehow) make it. Each characters gets to do so much in the film apart from pulling off those amazing stunts themselves. There’s a lot of depth in each of their transitions towards this 6th instalment. It’s so good to see Elsa(played by Rebecca Fergusan) back. That character in Rogue Nation was so well written that seeing her again weaved into the storyline seemed wonderful. Henry Cavill also has a great screen presence and his banter with Tom is clever.

Lots of references to previous MI films (which makes you go ahaan!) and yet packaged in a more grounded fashion. The lingering emotions, complicated relationships, deciet, shocks are the usual.

The stunts, as always, extravagant displays of ‘what-the-hell-is-he-doing’ knowing very well that all of this is not green screen stuff is sheer amazing. And still, the bathroom brawl involving both Cruise and Cavill is simply the best. Talk about old school. My other favorite is Tom Cruise running at a speed which puts you to shame.

It’s a movie which sets up the next MIs on track and definitely sets up expectations of more jaw-dropping stuff down the line. I mean, the guy is 56 years of age, and there’s clearly no stopping him.

Go watch the movie on the big screen. It’s worth your money.

I’m rating this 4.5/5.

Calicut_Travelogue_Kozhikode_Beach

Travelogue: The Calicut Chapter

You know you’re in a good place when the auto-waalas are nice to you. I mean, how often does that happen?

The weather seemed better than I expected. Humid. But manageable. Considering the hostel I booked didn’t have AC-dorms available, this was better.

I’ve become quite a regular Kerala-visitor and find myself more at ease here than any other place, even when I don’t speak the language. Of course, credit goes to the people of this beautiful state who always make an attempt to converse rather than leaving you high and dry to fend for yourself.

Calicut backpakers vintage hostel, where I stayed, wasn’t close to the beach (4 Kms away) but close to the markets. Else, the lazy-beach-bum that I am, would have stayed put at the beach itself. If you’re looking for a clean, cheap and safe place to stay in Calicut, this is it.

Except for a brief outing for breakfast, I remained confined in the hostel’s living area reading a book. I had decided to only head out when I really felt hungry, which happened somewhere after 2. Instead of taking an auto or a bus, I decided to walk more than 3kms to a highly rated restaurant named, Paragon Restaurant. Walking in that humidity I hoped the food better be worth the sweat.

And well, it was.

I just ordered a Biriyani. And, Loved it.

Post lunch, I took an auto to Kozhikode beach. Walking along the beach, measuring its entire length, I even ended up scaling the Rocky pathway till the end. All the while thinking, what if I fall?

The sides of this are lined with boats, big and small, anchored to the rocks on the side. On one side the waves keep crushing the rocks and on the other, these boats keep them in check.

On the Kozhikode beach one notices that the crowd mostly comprises of families chilling out together. I sat down with a chilled bottle of water while the cloudy sky tried its best to not let me and the sun meet. We both waited until the lights dimmed down and walked along the shores, drenching my feet in the water, for some time.

I had looked up a place named ‘Zain Hotel’, famous for its snacks and then headed off to the same. It is a 10-minute walk from the Kozhikode Beach and the vintage look of the hotel welcomes you to indulge in the menu full of snacks.

I don’t know the Malayali-names of these snacks but have eaten all of these at home at some point but with different names. Different names, of course. And yes, they were good. Especially for the nostalgic value attached to these dishes, prepared occasionally at most of Muslim homes.

Back in the hostel, adventure awaited. A tree fell down in the vicinity and the entire areas’ electricity went kaboom! Humidity and this happened. After a stroll down to the spot where it happened in the middle of the night, me, the caretaker and the security guard came back. A few hours of wait and I finally gave in to sleep.

Day 2:

The plan was to head to Kappad beach but before that, I needed to charge up my phone’s battery. All thanks to no-electricity! So, I headed off to nearby cafes in the neighborhood to get it done. Finally, one of the bakery shops helped push up the battery to 30%. Phew!

It’s tough to navigate when Google maps don’t pin point the bus services. With the help of two youngsters who guided me to the route, I finally made it.

This is the beach where Vasco Da Gama landed when he first came to India in the 1800’s. How cool, right? The historical reference adds so much value to the already amazing beach. From the Kozhikode bus stand, you can take a bus till Thiruvangoor for a mere 17INR (for 17kms) and take an auto/walk to the beach.

Bus to Mavoor bus stand (8 INR)

Bus from Mavoor to Trivangoor (17INR)

Trivangoor to Kappadbeach auto (40 INR)

So, I had this drink near Kassad beach. Vingegar+fruits+nuts and sugar solution added to crushed ice! Later came to know that this is called, ‘Churrandi Ice’.

Day 3:

The third day, started late. I had plans to head out to Beypore Beach. But I kept delaying it and only ended up heading out in the evening.

Apart from being another port town, the beach here has a path leading to the ocean. Similar to how Haji Ali dargah (in Mumbai) is located. Only at the end, there’s a view point instead. The whole pathway is lighted up and as the sun sets, it makes for a good view from the beach as well. I reckon it’ll be a good place to have a morning run as well!

The beach, however, isn’t clean unlike the other two beaches I went to. Mostly because of this being a port city, maybe?

I was, however, again lucky to reach just before sunset! 3 days, 3 sunsets and 3 different beaches!

At Beypore beach, had Churandi ice (yes, again!) and a plate of chana (not sure of the name) and then after it started to get dark, headed towards the bus stop.

Another amazing fact about Kerala is that you end up being near to mosques if you’re roaming around beaches. Prayed Maghrib at the nearby mosque and took a bus which dropped me in the town area of Kozhikode.

And when in town, ended up at this small stall of ‘Bhaskarettante kada’ to have a milk sarbath. This was my ‘find of the day!’. Finding something new to eat or even drink, is such a joy. One lives for such experiences when travelling. This Milk Sarbath was one of them. This place is located near Paragon Hotel. And I only ended up noticing the place because of the crowd that had gathered. This is just sugar syrup, Ice and Milk. That’s it. Not sure if they add something else in this. Later on, heard from someone that they add peanut powder in the same. The drink is filling enough and ensured that I skipped dinner.

I then bought some Kozhikode halwa from a street named after it: Sweet meat street! The halwa is a combination of Flour, Palm Sugar and is cooked in coconut oil. Of course, Northies have a different variation when it comes to ‘halwa’. But hey, as long as it’s good, who’s complaining?

Tip: Do ensure the packaging is perfect when you’re bringing it back home. If you leave this unattended, it easily attracts ants. Hashtag True Story.

Day 4:

After a good Beef+Porotta breakfast, I was lazying around and just finishing off the book and planned to do just that. And then decided otherwise and went walking around. Met Mohanlal, Dulqar and Thilakan on the way to the beach as well.

But before the beach, tasted Paragon’s Biriyani one more time! Added mutton liver fry as well 🙂 And of course, one last Churrandi Ice. And this is where I ended up knowing the name of this drink as well.

But the best thing about Calicut isn’t limited to its beaches, food or the graffiti around the city. It’s the people of Calicut. They are the nicest bunch of folks I’ve ever met. Right from the Autowaala (I know!) to my hosts, and everyone I came across. Will miss this!

I’ll definitely be visiting Calicut one more time and the hospitality of strangers would be one big reason to do so.

Book Review: The Namesake

The Namesake.

How much impact does our name have on our lives?

My name ends up being my ‘last name’ to those unfamiliar with how Muslim names work in a lot of occasions. Not only that, the varied pronounciations and phonetically ‘right’ way of saying it, does make names sound different than it actually is. Not such a big problem for many who, like me, like their name.

Now, imagine someone hating their name!! Holding a grudge against their parents for doing that to them and especially when that someone is a first-generation American. That’s the central theme of this Pulitzar-prize winning book by Jhumpa Lahiri.

The one thing which I hated about the book was the Cover! Any book which has the cover of its film adaptation is something I hate. It deprives you of forming characters in your own head.

Other than that, the book is a breeze to read. Jumpha Lahiri is a good story-teller and she captures the life and times of the Indian diaspora, struggles of first-generation Indians and their immigrant parents, how they perceive India during their once-a-year India, but more importantly how the name which our protagonist has: Gogol, affects his outlook. There’s a back-story as to why Gogol was named Gogol which he does not know of, and is adamant of shedding off his Bengali origins (unlike his parents) and being an American only. The problems of this cultural identity occupies a major portion of this book by displaying the shift of Gogol’s parents: Ashoke and Ashima, from Calcutta to Cambridge.

Apart from this backdrop of culture, the book focusses on the Dynamics of family, relationships and issues where cultural identities play a pivotal role.

I loved reading the book, the introduction to a mixed cultural landscape and intrinsic struggles of families to remain together. And now, I look forward to watching the film as well.

Book Review: Godan

Godan.

This happens to be the first Hindi Novel (of such length) that I’ve read. I’ve read a few excerpts before and even watched the on-film version of this long back, but reading this book has been an experience that I’m glad to have done.

Premchand is a genius. Probably, as everyone already says, the greatest Hindi novelist. This definitely piques my interest in reading more of Hindi literature.

Godan, or more phonetically ‘Gau-Daan’ or ‘The gift of the cow’ as the translated version is referred as, is ideally on how a poor farmer’s innate desire to own a cow, so that when he dies, can be given away to a Brahmin as is customary. Of course, the death acts as a metaphor for the countless deaths that the farmer (and his family) go through.

The book largely paints the terrible state of farmers in the pre-independence era, the zamindari system, caste system, society’s treatment of the poor and low-caste, the lifestyle of the rich and their own problems and how all of this constantly crosses each other’s path.

The language in the book floats from the hindi-urdu to hindi, and is reminiscing of the way it’s spoken in the Oudh region (around Lucknow) and helps in the transition of the stories along with the characters’ laments.

Even though the book is set in the pre-independence era, it doesn’t meddles too much into the freedom struggle. In a way, this symbolises how cut-off the villagers were or how engrossed they were in their own problems.

I’m still amazed at the numerous stories stitched together to portray the life and times of that time. Godan has been a wonderful read and not only because it was in Hindi, which is another reason to love it, anyway.

There’s a translated version of Godan available and if you cannot read Hindi, you should give that a try.

I loved it. Hope you’ll love it as well.

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

If I’d known that all of Murakami’s work are translated versions, I probably would’ve shied away from reading one. I’m glad I didn’t.

This book has been a revelation! I’ve been blown away by the unique storytelling that Murakami has essayed through Kafka on the Shore. I’ve become such a fan, already.

Kafka on the shore captures the life of ‘Kafka’ who runs away from home at the age of 15 and ends up near the shore and a parallel story of an old Nakata who can talk to Cats. How are these two stories related and how the two protagonists cross path towards meeting each other, along with paranormal activities, UFOs, mystics and shady characters in their journey is what the book is about. There’s so much to this book that I cannot put it down without it being too lengthy of a review to read.

What I loved about ‘Kafka on the Shore’ is the increase in curiosity level as you progress in your reading. The book ends with loose ended answers and yet you feel like capturing the essence of the world which Murakami wanted to portray. I’ve never been intrigued by Japanese culture before, but reading this I feel like spending time in the library like Kafka to get all I can.

This is one of those books, which goes into my re-read list. Loved it. Look forward to more of Murakami!

Working Hours

There’s a lot of talk in workplaces and even outside, on working hours. What’s the ideal number an employee should be spending in the vicinity of their office.

We’ve definitely moved beyond the 9-5 routine. When was the last time you entered your office and left when the clock ticked a time, and you’re like, ‘Time’s up!’ ?

Not saying that people don’t do this, but I’m getting to hear less of this now a days. At least in the circles I move in.

There are people who do come to office early and there are many (like me) who take their own sweet time to swipe in. The philosophy that I intend to follow is to stay in office as long as you feel like working, swipe out when you don’t. Hours added to your time-in-office for the sake of it are nothing but a waste of your own productivity and strain your non-work life.

Agreed, unavoidable meetings and deadlines don’t always agree with ‘Oh! I don’t feel like working today’ but if you always get this feeling then there are bigger questions to ask. For instance, do you even like doing what you’re doing?

The general perception that offices have created is working late means working more. It’s evident in everyone who candidly remarks, ‘Areyyy! You’re leaving early?’. Your work output should be the only metric defining you at any workplace.

I tried sticking to this system in my previous organization and it did turn out well-Work till you feel like working, leave when you don’t. I’ll strive to maintain the same with the new one as well.

In an age when opening work even when I’m home, or commuting or out on a vacation, is such a regular thing, sticking to prescribed work timings sounds like living in the an olden era.

There’s of course, no hard-and-fast rule to it. Maybe even I’ll break this sometime. But having a philosophy to remind you, time and again, helps draw a baseline.

What’s your take on working hours, anyway?

Writing-first-thing-in-the-morning

Difficulty of Writing in front of others

Writing in seclusion is what I always prefer. Zoning out, and penning down my thoughts. Not caring about the world in motion.

What I don’t quite like is people starting on my screen when I’m trying to write. As of the words won’t just come out on their own. Self-consciousness-bs aside, the mind just goes blank. Even with the knowledge that nobody can actually read the small font sized letters that the screen is adjusted to, it just gets so difficult to write!

I tried writing on the bus, on my way to work, but the dude next to me preferred the WP-editor on my phone than the scenery of traffic out of that window. Then once in office, ended up responding to emails and then my desk got shifted and there-my resolve to write first thing in the morning went for a toss. It’s like getting out on a duck after promising to score a ton. Well..

But, why it is so difficult to write when people are watching?

I definitely don’t mind people reading once I’ve finished. It’s definitely not the fear of being judged. I threw that away long back. I mean, I don’t even do a proofread of my blog before I hit publish. Just like this one. Unless, someone points it out. Or months later when I re-read this (which rarely happens), and go like, why is there a typo?! And how come no one noticed this?

So.. while I try to figure out the reason. Please don’t go ask someone, when they’re writing, ‘What you writing?’. There are so many other ways to make small talk.

Please?

Also, let me know what do you think is the reason.

Writing-first-thing-in-the-morning

Writing First Thing In The Morning

The primary aim of my life has always been to be organized. A failed exercise about which I’ve talked endlessly. Not that you’ll remember. I mean, who remembers the rant of a blogger.

Last year, I tried to write a post every day. A Hashtag Day 1-n series that lasted more than 100 days. Kudos, right? I felt the same. Pushing yourself into a routine of belting out words every day. Those were the days. Remember?

And like every other good thing, it ended. Lived to be remembered as a hero and didn’t lasted long enough to be termed into a villain. Hashtag Dark knight reference.

And I’ve always felt like doing a 2.0 of the same. The Dark Knight Rises?

Okay, Okay! I’ll give the references a break.

But I’m very skeptic of the same, now. Sequels rarely succeed.

However, considering my work here in the new office is yet to give me a glimpse of a hectic Agency Life, I’ve got a plan. A plan to Write at the start of every day. And without the 1-n day series in place. Because, it’s okay to skip a few days when I’m not in the mood or when work catches up. Or worse, Meetings!

So, what do you think? I’ll probably need a few ‘Hey, that sounds good’ to sneak through my ears if I’m going to do this.

I know, I know! A lot of you don’t give a damn. And there’s nothing wrong in that. But some of you do, and your feedback would keep this exercise going.

So, yeah! A short post to kick-start another series of posts.

Catch 22 Book Review: Clever, Humourous and worth a read!

Catch-22!

This is one of the most clever books I’ve had a chance to read. We’re so used to using the paradoxical idiom of a Catch-22 in our real lives. This is THE origin of the terminology. And what an amazing read this has been.

Catch-22 has its origin in the US Air-force rule that doesn’t let the airmen leave the services even when they wanted to, or even when they’ve flown a certain number of missions. The only way to get themselves out is to become crazy and then you’d not be allowed to fly planes. But, (here’s the catch) a crazy person won’t say he’s crazy as well ask to not fly. Hence, anyone saying he’s crazy really isn’t! And that’s Catch-22.

The book revolves around the central character of Yossarian, captain in the US Air force during WW-2( near Italy), for the most part. But usually takes in the POV of the entire characters one-at-a-time to show a continuous event.

The book has a range of interesting characters, each struggling through the war.

It’s Satire and Dark humour, with an exaggerating narrative on how war affects people. It’s a fight between individualism vs the collective good, a social commentary of the business of War, Corporate interests and a whole lot of unresolved human emotions.

It’s fun to read with full of aha! moments when you connect parallel narratives. Worth a read.

Loved Joseph Heller’s writing style. Highly recommend!

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