Author: farooq Page 2 of 46

2018: Looking back & Ahead. Maybe.

As I start to write down about the year that just slipped past us, I was reminded of my ’17 Review and I immediately looked up on what I wrote.

Recalling the highlights of 2018 needed a let-me-close-my-eyes-and-look-back moment. And then, that’s it. It just took a moment to travel back to the start of the year and head back. My calendar year is usually a chronological order of the travel every month gets compartmentalized in. The entire experience is just that one moment packed into a capsule.

Growing up (older & wiser) is all about understanding ourselves and the attached perspective that is always in motion. The metamorphosis of moments held together of time & people juxtaposed alternatively in the cycle of our lives. Even with the staged progress of change, big changes, the entire gist is a moment. The moment when I write this, on one side, and the entire year stitched together on the other. This one moment of feeling. The truth of this moment, amazingly, sucker punches the highs & lows of the year that went by.

While we can worry about the long-term planning of the mosaic of life, which’ll eventually become, fluffs of moments, when you glance at the rear-view as soon as the earth completes another revolution.

Then what remains?

The constants.

The constants that remained part of these moments. Family, Friends and the solace you never stop searching for.

It is these constants in life that defined and will keep adding colors to your 70mm version of that moment. Year after year.

There’s always a choice. The Red and the Blue pill. The matrix of choices that glorify the prize at the end of it. Towards the end of these calendar years, we always look at those finish lines, the chosen path or the regretted path left back, becomes secondary. It is only when we analyze our life’s choices that the regrets pop out. The constants with you are the ones you chose right. Or, they did. Whatever, it worked.

I don’t know if the next year will again become just a moment its new year resolution might actually make it change. All I care about is the blessed and privileged life of constants that we have, remain part of every year’s moments. That there are less regrets in life than stupid laughs later. We all know which one hurts less.

To a year of being unabashedly true to ourselves, hello 2019! And thank you for the moments, 2018.

Creating False Equivalance

As kids, when the era of the Internet hadn’t dawned upon mankind, one of the favorite pastimes used to be solving riddles. Hours spent thinking and breaking down riddles. These riddles would fly far-off across cities and villages over the course of several holidays or even train journeys. Nostalgia aside, one of these riddles that I fondly recall, was ‘how much of cotton would have to be added to the beam-balance to equal 10KGs of Coal’. It was merely a play on words (might be lost in translation from Hindi) to confuse you in tricking you.


While the correct answer is still 10KG for an equal amount of Coal. The comparison here, apart from the weight of the two, is not equivalent.
Without having to explain this analogy in detail, I’d like to jump straight to what I intend to talk about-The narratives of creating a false equivalence.
How often have movements been attacked for a supposed bias for non-inclusion of a different or a broad group? How often have the hashtags been altered Equivalence?

Quite often, if you were looking for an answer to my rhetoric’s! Have we not also watched people breaking away from restricted groups for the fear of being branded and decided to become part of a larger group? Yes, we have.
No one likes being branded. Of course, few thrive on those brands for the attention it provides them while few run away when it gets just too much to handle.

None of the above, in any way, don’t intend to solve the problems or be part of movements that can bring change. They just don’t want to be on the side which isn’t going to win or exclude them from society’s perks distribution list. The ones with a sense of identity they are uncomfortable to discuss. We’ve all been there at some point, right?

The problem isn’t this running away or being uncomfortable when asked for a POV, the problem is giving in to the false equivalence created to justify acts by the majority over any set of minorities across a spectrum of issues. The problem is when all the issues are viewed from the prism of one set of eyes alone. The set of eyes for which black is black, and there aren’t shades of it. A set of eyes with a scant disregard for the amount of cotton that’ll occupy the space for every kilogram of Coal. The set of eyes, who’ll still say, ‘At the end, both are 10KGs only, right?’

Irrespective of how much you shout for #BlackLivesMatter, there’ll be a set of folks with #AllLivesMatter. For every #MeToo, there’ll be a #NotAllMen. As soon as you raise an issue concerning a finite group, easily identifiable with a common problem, a larger group would be ready with their list of whataboutery on your face. Why now, why not then? Why just you, why not us?


Even in a cry for justice, false equivalences get created all the time! If this isn’t being inconsiderate, then what is?

Why are we always looking for an Upgrade?

Any juncture of life, the element of ‘being content’ seems just a little ahead of us. Like a dangling stick with a prize stuck on the bonnet and you keep driving on the road that never ends. If by the sheer dare of it, you jump out to grab it, risking the drive you’re on, a momentous joy seeps right in. The photo moment of your glory filled with the silent applause of the world. The moment ends without your express permission. You try carrying yourself on the back of it for a while. Until you see an upgrade.

We keep filling our lives with our need for an upgrade. In everything. Crossing over the materialism of this recurrent exercise to even the realm beyond it. Even into the intricacies of human bonds. The idea of getting bored of things transposes onto redefining expectations, blaming it onto human nature instead of the associated greed. Knowing the moral conflict doesn’t stop us from this association. Our blame game is strong AF.

We’ve stopped even in indulging in the glory of momentary wins. Comparisons maketh them small. It’s not success if everyone can claim it. We want to be explorers not visitors on claimed properties. There are no idols. We want to be Idols. Not by emulating them or even joining them in the podium. But beating them at it. The world seems possible and territories marked doesn’t entice rather propels us towards newer (read better) avenues to explore. Even unattainable ones.

Where does it end?

Unanswered questions akin to the crisis that engulfs us. Existentialism. A constant need to fight this need of by bringing in spirituality that can bring temporary relief to the idea of few of those Whys. Few, yes.

In a society where living by the standards set by others was the norm. We question it. To better it. And yet follow their lead in bettering ourselves in comparison. Changing Yardsticks, and yet still a yardstick. Like beads in a rosary, something new and then back to the same after a revolution. Just craving for a new rosary, every time. Maybe that’ll bring a new joy. A new upgrade to our monotonous life as the cycle of upgrades become thus. A new launch is always anticipated for our tiring souls to lift spirits.

Why are we built this way?

Can our complexity not be simplified without us having to settle, but just in reduction of that need to an upgarde? Or should we always expect a new phone model to continue enticing us to stand in queues?

Book Review: RK Narayan’s The Guide

‘The Guide’ by RK Narayan is an amazing before-after story that captures the arc, deconstructs it and re-creates it in parallel. Guide is about passion driving a man to the shallows of life, by destroying familial bonds and a thriving business. But, all of this, written in a comedy-of-error way which keeps the humor intact even in tragic situations.

The story starts with Raju, the protagonist, coming out of jail. One part of the storyline tells how he manages his life’s construct post his jail term. While, his backstory deconstruct allows the reader a peek into how he ended up in Jail in the first place. Both the storyline follow the rise-from-the-bottom until tragedy strikes. A major part of the story is leading up to this tragedy.

In the current state, Raju’s rise to becoming a reluctant sage and the struggles of putting up a ‘show’ for the naive villagers who consider him as a ‘Swami’ with immense wisdom, is captured.

In both the storylines, Raju insists that he’s a hack and mocks the fools believing him. By being a Guide, showing him around the town of Malgudi or by becoming the Swami and guiding people in everyday lives, creating a verisimilitude in both. But, this is from the perspective of Raju, the guide and the sage, and does not take into account the impact he might’ve on people and their lives.

A major part of the book is about Rosie with who Raju falls in love with. It’s complicated because Rosie is already married.

RK Narayan is a master storyteller and Guide gives you just that. It’s a breezy short pageturner that’ll keep you interested. If you’ve read any of his work, and liked it, you would like this one as well. As always, the book is a simple read, but there’s so much to ponder at the end of it. That’s what RK Narayan’s stories are, and that’s why you love them every time you read one of his.

The book leaves you with a lot of questions which you don’t get answers to. The closure element is missing and this incompleteness makes the story more real-life.

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.

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.

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