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Thursday, December 29, 2011

College Days Nostalgia



It is strange how memory works and how can random things trigger nostalgia shots.
Two things happened today which reminded me of my college days and my best friends.
First thing is i saw a Reynolds ballpoint pen. In my late school days and all through college days, i always used the Reynolds Bold ballpoint pen. I just loved them. Black, Blue, Green & Red ... all four would always be in my bag inside a small compass box (which was with me since 4th standard and still had the Mowghli sticker on it)
Well, I spent quite some time during my junior college days in the library (no no no no .. not studying. It was the favourite hangout for me and my 2 best friends). AND we used to keep our Reynolds pens standing on the library table. It was a sort of game and something that became a part of the lovely memories we have of our college days.
The sight of the Reynolds today brought back a flood of memories of my college days and my best friends. Those wonderful days !!
Another thing was a key chain I carry with me. It is always in my laptop bag and I get to use it every day since I use it to hold a small device which gives me half of the password for my official email. Well, a colleague saw the keychain which has a wooden oval shaped piece with words inscribed on it "Friends are Golden But my friend is Gold". He asked me where I got it from and I told me it was almost 15 years old and was from my college days. He marveled at the key chain while I was hit by nostalgia hit me again.
This keychain was given to me by my best friend and it again evoked countless memories.
I soooo wish I had a time machine and I could go back in time … or at least I had a photographic / videographic memory and I could re-live those moments in my mind with HD clarity on a 52 inch screen inside my head.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mumbai Airport Experience (Continued)

Well … in the previous post, I wrote about my bad experience at CSIA and the problems/inconvenience that millions of passengers face while travelling through the airport. I shared the link to the post with the Twitter account of CSIA (@CSIAMumbai) hoping that someone might read it.

What happened next 24 hours was something that is blog worthy, share worthy.

Within an hour of sharing the link on FB, I got a feedback from CSIA that they are looking into my feedback and will receive a response soon via email. I shared my email address and indeed an email arrived within an hour with detailed explanations to why the problems existed and what action was being taken to resolve them.

For the telephony and wifi problem, they said that they were recognized problems and they have been working on it already. For the baggage trolley problem, they said that the matter was being taken up strongly with the trolley contractors and trolley retrievers had been briefed.

I was pleasantly surprised at this quick response with firm actions being outlined in the email.

The story doesn't end here though.

I got another message from CSIA asking for my mobile number (this all email exchange and twitter message exchange happened in the evening) and next morning I received a call from CSIA Customer Service executive who discussed the problems with me in details and also shared the name and contact number of Duty officer at CSIA. Since I was travelling, I met the Duty Manager at CSIA and discussed the mentioned problems and a few more.

 

This chain of events prove that the Customer Service executives at CSIA are pretty much customer oriented and focused on feedback. What needs to be seen is whether the airport authorizes are equally responsive and quick in resolving the problems that I highlighted.

I will be travelling from Dubai to Mumbai again in about 10-12 days and it remains to be seen what difference in experience I will get.

(I have asked for permission from CSIA to publish their response email on this blog. I will post it verbatim if the permission arrives.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bad experiences at Mumbai International Airport (CSIA)

I have been travelling international for past 6 years now and so I have been in the Mumbai International Airport extensively. I have never been happy with the Mumbai airport. Having travelled to Zurich, Geneva, Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, Chennai, Hyderabad (new), Bangalore (new) … Mumbai airport really disappoints in terms of infrastructure, facilities etc.  

Now coming to my recent experiences …  

I have travelled several times in past 6 months on the Dubai-Mumbai sector and my airport experience in Mumbai has been extremely bad (not unsatisfactory but bad).

I faced problems with telephony, wifi internet and last but not the least, baggage trolley. 

Public phones are such a basic facility. In an international airport, many people do not have their mobile phones. Non-Indian passengers arriving will most probably not have a local mobile number. Indian passengers might leave their Indian mobile number at their homes in india since they would not want to incur the 'way-tooo-high' international roaming charges.

And it comes as a shock that I could not find a single PCO / public phone in the international airport in my last 2 trips. There was not a single phone in the departure lounge after crossing immigration counter. I could not locate a single PCO in arrival lounge also. None of the staff members or customs officials could help me on this.

How is a passenger supposed to reach out to anyone from inside the airport ???
And how can the CSIA authorities ignore such a basic service/facility.

WiFi Internet – CSIA boasts of free wifi but u need a phone to use it. The thing is that they want you to use your phone to send/receive a code so that you can activate wifi on your laptop or other device. So …. Keeping in context the fact that I stated above that quite a few passengers in international airport are without a mobile phone / active number; for them the wifi facility is not usable.

I would really like to know why does CSIA need to bring in the mobile phone in the workflow to access the wifi on the laptop.

Baggage Trolleys – CSIA is known for huge crowds at night time. There are times when multiple flights arrive in a short interval of time. The airport becomes a fish market or a stock market ring at that time. You can see a huge crowd (yes, crowd. Not queues) near the Immigration and the baggage conveyor belt and then outside for cab too. I do understand the crowd but I am sure it can be organized. I have seen bigger crowds at Dubai airport but they really manage their crowds well.

But let's come to the problem which hits the passengers the most. After having a tough time standing the crowd and queue for the immigration; when people rush to the baggage conveyor belts; they face a problem which is as stupid as an absent PCO. No trolleys.

It has happened to me twice so it was not an exception but a normal situation at CSIA. I could see hundreds of passengers (Men, women, children, senior citizens); all going round in search of baggage trolleys. And there were no trolleys to be found.

The passengers are in a fix since they need to look for their baggage and also for a trolley. If they pick up the baggage then they can't move around chasing the trolley and if they don't pick up the baggage for too long, the belt gets loaded up with no space for more bags to be added.

Some staff members would bring in a few trolleys and men would pounce on them. The women and senior citizens were looking at them helplessly. I myself had to pounce on a trolley (after 20 minutes of wait) which I shared with a lady with a 1 year old kid; since there was no way she could go trolley hunting with the kid.

The Airport authorities, airport police/security as well as the customs officials were simply looking at the absolutely helpless passengers and doing absolutely nothing to help.

I also saw some airline staff members getting 1-2 trolleys for their 'special guests' … maybe business or first class passengers for their airlines. And I also saw some currency notes exchanging hands and trolleys for the donor coming up in a matter of minutes.

I was tired, angry, disgusted, disappointed at the whole situation. Hundreds of passengers inconvenienced due to lack of trolleys. In my last trip of October, I got hold of the trolley after 40 minutes and this time in December, it was about 20 minutes.

And the best part was yet to come. While coming out the lady was complaining about the situation and I was trying to explain that about 10 flights had landed in a matter of 30 minutes and hence the rush. All trolleys were probably taken up by people who landed before us. I was still positive and looking at it as a situational problem.

I came out of the airport and moved towards the right side where there is less crowd and I could wait for my dad to pick me up. This is where I saw literally 100's of trolleys neatly stacked but no one taking them inside. I saw some staff members coming in and taking away a few trolleys rather than the usual practice of moving 50-100 trolleys together inside.

This was a real shocker. Trolleys were there. Plenty of them. Adequate and Enough for all the passengers inside the terminal standing and waiting at the baggage terminal. BUT, no one was taking them inside where they were really needed.

CSIA is supposed to one of the high passenger density airports of India; which only means that millions of passengers have to face inconvenience and bad experiences when they go thro CSIA. What an image of the Commercial Capital of India is being formed in their minds.
 
I hope someone from CSIA reads this and takes some concrete action to solves these problems ... and also the several other problems that the passengers face in the airport.
 
(Just when I was about to post this blog post, I saw the Amir Khan advertisement … Athithi Devobhava …
I am sure they could make an ad on airport experience of foreign travelers as well)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Potatoes, Eggs, and Coffee !!


I am sure you must have read this several times as email forward ever since you started using email.  I am putting it here on my blog so that I can read it as and when I need some inspiration to see life and its problems differently

Once upon a time, a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn't know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.
Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter.
The daughter moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing.
After twenty minutes, he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup.
Turning to her, he asked, "Daughter, what do you see?"
"Potatoes, eggs, and coffee," she hastily replied.
"Look closer," he said, "and touch the potatoes."
She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.
"Father, what does this mean?" she asked.
He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs, and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity, the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently.
The potato went in strong, hard and unrelenting, but in boiling water it became soft and weak.
The egg was fragile with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard.
However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.
"Which are you?" he asked his daughter.
"When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?" In life, things happen around us and things happen to us, but the only thing that truly matters is what happens within us.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review – 7 Secrets of Shiva

Warning :) Long post ahead ! I just couldn't make it short. When you write from the heart, words flow!

I had heard about Devdutt Pattanaik from my best friend who is my guide for reading material J I was looking forward to reading some of his works when I came across the Blog Adda Book Review program. I registered and waited for something interesting to come up and voila … 7 Secrets of Shiva comes up next and I grab the opportunity!

Well, all fine till this point. I receive the book and unfortunately have to travel for work as a result the reading of the book gets delayed by almost a phenomenal 20 days. I come back and the first thing I do is pick this book up.

2 surprises even before I begin reading the book.

First one is the size of the book, the book is sized unconventionally (at least I haven't read a book in this size for a loooooong time). One may not realize but the size of the book changes things. You hold the book in your hand and it feels different. This changes the entire reading experience too.

The next surprise came up as soon as I opened the book. PICTURES. Remember your childhood when you would preferably pick up books with pictures (I 'fortunately' was not really that type and I picked up a Nandan or a Chandamama with equal or even higher zeal than a chacha Choudhury or a Tinkle; since less pictures meant more reading content).

7 Secrets of Shiva has pictures on ALL left hand side pages. Yes. That's right. HALF the book is pictures. It has been a very loooooong time since I read a book with so many pictures (barring comics of course).

Well, with these two pleasant surprises in tow, I started reading the book. As you might have read in many a places and many a reviews, the book is in 7 chapters / parts, each talking about the secrets of Shiva.

It is a 200 page book (with half the pages in pictures, so practically 100 pages of reading) and I thought reading this would be a pretty quick thing. I was to be proved wrong pretty soon. After every few pages, one has to take a pause. Stop and think about what one has just read. The mental machinery starts moving and all that you have heard, read, believed all your life is brought into focus and you now have a 'better' understanding of things as they are explained and not just left for you to accept without questioning.

In the first chapter, which unravels the secret of Shiva's form as a 'Shiva Linga', the narrative talks about the 'Pillar of Fire' incident where Shiva tells Vishnu, "You are humble enough to accept limitations. You are not intimidated by the uncertainty or afraid of ignorance. You are in the process of becoming God."

Think about it. Don't we humans possess similar characteristics? Aren't we ourselves in the process of becoming Gods … (although we have probably just started J). While reading this, I started thinking about the short book 'God's Debris' by Scott Adams where he proposes that we humans are God's Debris … the result of God destroying himself in a cosmic explosion (which we consider as Big Bang) and we are in the process of re-assembly … forming God gradually from the billions and billions of bits and pieces.

We also often hear people say "God is within You" … Are these then different ways of expressing the same concept?

Besides the concepts of form and factor, this chapter and the whole book in general, is all about Symbolism. The Shiva Linga, a form representing the human phallus, is the symbol used to depict Shiva. And it is not the only one. The author points out that Hindu Mythology is full of symbolisms (which I am sure is a common thread in the various Devdutt Pattanaik authored books).

Yet another interesting fact which is brought out is that although there is a human form representation of Shiva (ash covered, animal skin clad, living in the mountains), this form is never worshipped. It is the Linga 'form' of Shiva that is worshipped.

Each chapter looks at Shiva and the 'concept' of his being a god through various symbols and representations - Lingeshwara, Bhairava, Shankara, Bholenath, Ganesha, Murugan, Nataraja. The concepts engulf Shiva's form, nature, dance, his interaction with Vishnu and Brahma, significance of his wife Parvati/Shakti and his sons Ganesh and Murugan … Shiva is sum total of all of them and not just an individual. They complete him, complement him and represent him.

Reading this book is a contrast to those like Scott Adams "God's Debris" (a head spinner) … God's Debris challenges stuff you have never imagined challenging and shakes up your beliefs and understand. Devdutt's book 'explains' symbolism in mythology and helps you understand your beliefs … things which you had accepted blindly without questioning. This book is a good help to the scientifically inclined who would sometimes feel that our mythology is probably nothing but fantastic / fantasy stories which are pretty much unbelievable and don't carry much sense. (Yes Yes .. there are some youths around who indeed think like that). Devdutt's book would help them a lot.

We grow up learning about our Gods from our parents and then our teachers. Nowadays, of course there are plenty of mythological TV serials to give the kids a pretty biased and often glamorous perception of our Gods.

These books explain our beliefs and help us in our understanding of our gods (more specifically, the concept of Gods). Some 'learned people' might fear that in doing so, the books try to de-glorify Gods resulting in the modern youth questioning Godliness and pitting Gods against science and scientific proofs.

I would say, by explaining the concepts surrounding Gods, these books give the modern youth the precise understanding they need. It presents God in a way that is more acceptable to them. The books attempt to explain the 'representation' of God and not God themselves. Once you read this book, you don't go about questioning why Shiva is depicted as an individual who lives in the mountains, has 3 eyes, considered the destroyer, has a son with an elephant head who rides a mouse, represented as a Linga and so on. Youth begins to see these as symbols which are put together in an attempt to explain and represent the vas t concept of Shiva, the God.

We begin to appreciate the nuances of the concept of God (as defined by our religion) and we begin to appreciate them even more; b'cos now it is not just blind faith but a deeper understanding of the entire concept of Godliness.

If you are comfortable to put logic and religion/gods in the same thought process; leave Devdutt Pattanaik alone. He does not write for you.

And yes. Remember, i had mentioned pictures being a surprise in the book. They are important as well. A lot is explained through various pictures of Shiva's representations.

Disclaimer & FYI – This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program  at  BlogAdda . Participate now to get free books!

Incidentally, I saw the promos of (yet another) TV serial based on Shiva. God knows what they will do to the young impressionable minds. I have not been convinced by the recent mythological TV serials. The Ramayan (original DD version) and Mahabharat (original DD version) were pretty good. There was one on Shiva by Dhiraj Kumar which was pretty decent. After that, things sort of went downhill.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Table Hockey



Have you played this ? I had seen this earlier in some movie and in the gaming zones of malls but never quite tried my hand at it.
Recently, I got a chance to play and it was addictive. It was so much fun and entertaining and engrossing.
Time just flew by and it got pretty exciting. I am sure if and when I see this again somewhere, I am sure to play this !!
The pain in my shoulders and arms after the evening on Table Hockey was worth it !


Saturday, December 17, 2011

My ‘bad’ experience with Kingfisher Airlines

 

I travelled by Kingfisher for a change on the Dubai-Mumbai circuit. I have travelled Emirates, Jet, Indian Airlines etc earlier and this was probably my first experience (or maybe second) with the King. And it was NOT a good one.
 

I was disappointed by the Food.

I was very disappointed by the In-flight entertainments system.

 

Of course, IA was no better but one doesn't really expect too much from IA. But Kingfisher is supposed to be Good. Why then have important things like food and in-flight entertainment been ignored?

The food also left much to be desired. Quality as well as Quantity, both were not adequate. Food across the different airlines is pretty standardized in terms of the components etc though the quality varies widely. The king fell flat on the first step itself. The tray gave me a feeling that some things were missing and after having dinner, I felt dissatisfied J

Thankfully, a bad in-flight entertainment only meant that I could spend the time reading. I think I read 2 Feluda stories during my Dubai-Mumbai flight. This is good news for me so I am not really complaining but nevertheless, I expected Kingfisher to have better quality entertainment.

They just had one fixed hindi movie and another english movie and probably some english and hindi serial going on. You could only choose out of this 4 and there was no option to fwd, rewind, pause etc ... if u missed something .. u missed it. I thought that fixed options in-flight entertainment was a last century thing !! But the King clearly still reigns in the past.

The King is definitely not going to be seen as a King for long if it not going to get its basics right !!

 

BTW ....... While coming back to India, I had already finished off Feluda by then and the crew asked me to switch off my tablet (which I could have used to read) ... Luckily, Pyaar Ka Punchnama was one of the options (the other was Band Baaja Baarat and there was no english movie or hindi serial option) and i took it. Boy ! I enjoyed the movie. Saving grace for the trip.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Feluda … Completed !


I completed the Volume 2 of Feluda stories yesterday.
There is a sense of satisfaction.
A big fat volume read and enjoyed.
All the waiting and travel time put to some very good use.
चित्त  शांत  ! मन  प्रसन  !
Literally and loosely translated as "Conscious self at peace … Heart pleased"  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reading Feluda is like Travelling

I am currently on a Marathon Reading spree of Feluda ... targetting to complete practically the entire volume of Feluda stories (about 15 in total) within a span of 20 days spread across Nov-Dec ... (and reading some other stuff also in between)
Feluda stories are not only entertaining from the story point of view but they give you more than a story. They take you around.
Reading Feluda stories is like doing 'Bharat Bhraman' … touring the country with each case taking Feluda and his companions to a different city / town in India and then later even abroad; and you, the reader, tag along as a co-passenger on the tour of the new city.
It's a delight to read about those places in the middle of the story. Satyajit Ray ensures that through the Feluda stories, readers get a chance to experience exotic and different places. Ray talks about the place and its beauty. He gets the reader interested in places (be it Jaisalmer, Banaras, Haridwar, Darjeeling or Hong Kong & London).

Feluda must have created a yearning of travel in a lot many young minds. Tourism department should promote Feluda amongst the youngsters of today. They would surely be inspired to visit these and many other places of India.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Being pleased with simple stuff

Received this short story as email forward and I felt like posting it here

------------------------------------------------

There was once a wise man who lived simply. His spartan food habits reflected this. He had a friend who, being a sycophant of the king, lived in great luxury. One day this friend called on the wise man while he was eating.

Looking at the food, the friend said, "My friend, if you can please the king like me, you will be free from this wretched food."

The wise man smiled and replied, "My friend, if you can be pleased with this simple food, you can be free from the wretched job of pleasing the king."

-- Anonymous

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In a very few words, the story relates a significantly crucial facet of life. We spend our lives running after money (working our ass off or in some cases taking the corrupt path of amassing wealth) so that we can enjoy the so-called luxuries of life which constitute dining in expensive restaurants, living in expensive houses, owning expensive gadgets, travelling in expensive cars / planes etc and shopping extravagantly on expensive branded stuff.

Things which are not really necessary to life … not even necessary for happiness

BUT we attach 'happiness' to them and forever remain unhappy!

Might sound a bit philosophical but do give it a minute's thought !!

 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

November Reading - Part 2

Feluda Marathon ahead … 8 Feluda stories back-to-back …

Lugged around the heavy big fat Feluda Volume and read at every opportunity I got. Not having read Feluda in past several months, I was determined not only to read but also try and attempt to FINISH the entire Feluda Series by Dec 31st 2011 … that's about 750 pages of small print while reading other stuff also.

 

6. Feluda: The Mysterious Tenant

A case where Feluda discovers the real culprit of the crime, which is a murder incidently BUT does not reveal his identity to others - The murderer eventually meets his death

Also there is the case of a smaller crime of theft which is also solved by Feluda BUT again the culprit is not handed over to the police but asked to return the stolen object.

 

7. Feluda: The Criminals of Kathmandu

The case of the look-alikes

A man comes to Feluda seeking his help about a person who looks like him and has been using his identity and doing mischief. The case of the stolen identity takes a deadly turn when a murder occurs and the cast and crew of the story moves to Nepal. Feluda is obliged to follow and hence the story moves to Nepal; where Feluda is up against an old adversary who makes a re-appearance.

 

8. Feluda: Napoleon's Letter

A bird goes missing from its cage and a child requests Feluda to look into it. Feluda is first amused and then gets serious about this childish thing. He knows its more serious than it seems.

Then a murder is committed and a letter written by Napoleon (and hence having antique value) is stolen … the plot gets murkier and feluda has to tie all the strings together to find out what exactly happened.

And yes, even after muder and the theft … attempted burglary continues with the child's room being searched …

 

9. Feluda: Tintoretto's Jesus

A rare painting by a famous painter … the discovery of the painter's name would make it priceless and also the target for antique buyers and other anti-social elements.

Well, the painting gets stolen and Feluda has to trace to the roots of the painting and the owner of the painting to find out the painter and the value of the painting and also all those who knew about the painter and the true value of the painting.

As the story moves on, a fake painting is discovered and then another fake J

The story also takes Feluda and his companions to Hong Kong !!

 

10. Feluda: The Gold Coins of Jehangir

A gold coin (one from a set of 12) is stolen and Feluda is asked to investigate. The only problem is that it was stolen a year ago and the suspects are guests of the client and he does not want to humiliate them by talking about the theft.

Feluda managed to catch the thief and even save the client from the second attempt at robbery wherein not just another coin but the entire set was the target.

 

11. Feluda: Crime in Kedarnath

A jewel owned by a person devoid of materialistic life becomes the centre of the story. The person with the jewel is to be traced and protected while Feluda's tried to dodge the other interested parties.

And yes, in the whole process Feluda manages to unite Jatayu with his long lost uncle !!

 

12. Feluda: The Acharya Murder Case

A person attached to a theatre, responsible for its rise to fame, begins to get attractive offers from other theatre groups. He is not keen on leaving due to his loyalty to the theatre and the offers begin to turn nasty with veiled threats and finally MURDER.

Feluda gets involved and discovers that there is more than one crime here.

 

13. Feluda: The Case of the Apsara Theatre

Another story which had an element of theatre in it

An actor begins to get threatening warning letters and then subsequently disappears.

Feluda begins investigation since the man had come to him for help and Feluda had simply advised him to be careful. Feluda felt obliged to solve his disappearance/murder case.

Menwhile. The actor is replaced by another one who also begins to receive threats in similar fashion and ultimately resulting in murder.

Yet another replacement actor is brought into the role.

And Feluda solves the murder case finally with startling results and discoveries about the murders as well as the culprit.

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Well… that was the Feluda Marathon of November end. I plan to finish off Feluda once and for all before year end. I am sure I will not sustain the enthusiasm of carrying the big fat Feluda volume around.

Also, on the reading list for early next month is the "7 Secrets of Shiva" by Devdutt Pattanaik that I received from BlogAdda for review. I was looking forward to this book since I have heard a lot of good things about Devdutt Pattanaik from my close friend whose advise I always take on reading matters.  

 

Series Completion Score (as of 30th Nov 2011):  

Three Investigators     21 out of 35

Feluda                         27 out of 35

Sherlock Holmes         38 out of 56

Total                           86 out of 126

November Reading - Part 1

 

A couple of trips to Pune and also a trip to Dubai for 2 week in this month; meant that I had an increase in Travel time which boosts my reading. Reading score for this month's is a fabulous 13 !!

Started off with regulars - Sherlock Holmes and Three Investigators and also picked up a novel by James Patterson.

BUT the highlight of the month was the 'Return of Feluda' .. I read a total of 8 Feluda Stories to break of jinx of 'no Feluda' since several months ... it was like a Feluda Marathon at the end of the month.

Just FYI - November Reading post is in 2 parts. First part will talk about non-Feluda reading whereas the part 2 will focus on entirely Feluda reads.

 

1. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Six Napoleons by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The story has a culprit who goes about breaking (or to put it in a better word … smashing) plaster busts of the great Napoleon. And in due course, even commit a murder. Sherlock is able to see what no one else does and he finds the culprit as well as reaches the bottom of the mystery buried deep inside the busts.

I have often drawn parallels between Sherlock Holmes stories and the ones of the Three Investigators … here is another example. Even in 3I, there was a story where plaster busts were involved and their smashing was an integral part of the story.

More Interesting Parallels … There are stories in both series where tunnels are dug across the street from one house to another building holding a treasure / bank. Both have dealt with cases of the dog which did not bark and hence providing the most significant clue to the mystery at hand.

 

2. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Three Students by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This story had 2 specialties; one related to Sherlock and the other related to Me.  

Sherlock is involved to mediate in a case that cannot be made public. It involves a reputed university and 3 of its students. A 'student level crime' is committed and the culprit needs to be caught over-night. Sherlock nails the culprit without even meeting him and gains a confession out of him as well as from his unwilling confederate. The story displays Sherlock's unerring line of reason based on his acute observations. 

Now coming to Me. It was special for me because in spite of my poor memory, I remembered almost exactly all the details of the story (mind you … all the details). Considering the fact that I would have read the story at least 15-20 years ago; it is nothing less than a miracle for me that I remember all the details.

 

3. The Three Investigators & the Secret of the Haunted MIrror by M V Carrey

This one was a pretty interesting one where a mirror (actually the Mirror Frame) becomes the centre of a mystery which leads to first a buyer for the mirror followed by a thief and then of course the ghost of a dead magician appearing in the mirror. This story then turns from mysterious to criminal and a boy is kidnapped !! The mystery having its roots in the tale of a famous magician from one country and the tale of a political upheaval in another; with the current mystery's resolution having a country's political future at stake !! WOAH !!!

And as with all stories … all's well that ends well !!

 

4. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Often while reading, we assume the meaning of the words we don't understand. When I read the title of the story and started reading it; I assumed that the 'golder pince-nez' was probably a piece of jewellery with a precious stone. As the story progressed and Sherlock applied his methods; i realised that the pince-nez is actually a pair of spectacles with the side pieces missing. They are placed/pinched on the nose and you might have seen them in some period fims showing british era of 1800/1900's !!!

The key highlight of the story was Sherlock giving the physical description of a lady merely by looking at her 'pince-nez'. Pretty amazing!! The spectacles provide him with further deductions which lead him to catch the culprit in an almost magical fashion … which seems pretty logical once he has explained it (but magical otherwise J)

The pince-nez incident made me realize how many times I might have misunderstood some words /objects etc during stories and how I would have visualized this completely differently. For example; in a famous novel series, I had assumed a character to be female only to realize that it was a male character when a movie was made on the novel stories. I read some part of the book again trying to figure out how I could have made such a blunder. Wasn't that character ever referred to as he/she in the story … was it always by his/her name??? Strange !!

 

5. Witch & Wizard by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet

Picked this one out of the blue and it turned out to a nice light read

As usual, we have kids who have magical powers they don't know about and begin to discover. The brother sister duo are arrested by the 'police' and they are thrown into a 'hospital' from where they escape and end up in shadowland - a world of spirits and 'half-lights' - and after escaping from there … live in a large mall-like departmental store along with hundreds of other kids who are 'wanted' by the 'N.O.' … the New Order, which wants to control the world.

And then there are Prophecies … in a world of magic, wizards and witches, how can a story not have a prophecy J This one has not one or two but several; more than half a dozen.

It is written well and I liked it. There was a sort of Robert Ludlum quality to it. Several anti-climactic moments … where a sentiment is expressed in a very short sentence; which serves as a pause … a time where is push your head back and look up from the words and process what you just read and felt (yes, felt) often accompanied with a smile on your face. I liked Robert Ludlum writing for their thrill factor as well as the writing style where he would often end a scene with a few words which would punctuate your reading flow and give u a chance to smile and absorb what you had read.

For some serious readers, this novel might seem kid-stuff and childish … nevertheless ... I enjoyed it !!

BUT … the story ended abruptly. This looks like it might just end up being a looong series (I guess trilogies will go out of fashion after the runaway success of the likes of Harry Potter). This series does have potential to go into more than a trilogy. I have found the further episode to the story and will probably read it next month.

Well … part one ends here. Will talk about the 8 Feluda stories that I read in the next blog post

 

Series Completion Score (as of 25th Nov 2011):  

Three Investigators     21 out of 35

Feluda                         19 out of 35

Sherlock Holmes         38 out of 56

Total                           78 out of 126

Sharp Mind and Fiery Tongue

Strange title you might wonder. Well, this post is about an incident where my 'so called' sharp mind came to my rescue and my fiery tongue helped me create an impression of a life time. They actually helped me not only in getting out of a sticky situation but coming out with flying colours

(Warning: Long blog post ahead)

The incident dates back to my Engineering days. Those 4 years were pretty awesome.

I used to participate in school drama events but somehow during junior college years I did not get  chance to do it. In engineering, I took the chance again to be on stage. I participated in the class skit for our annual function and it was a great experience.

Well, the incident is related to my performance on-stage and how a dreaded situation worked to my advantage because of some quick on-the-feet thinking and a few timely words J

I don't really have a good memory so I always had the challenge of remembering my dialogues on stage. But, I would work out a way of having the script with me on stage to aid me J In one of the plays, I was playing a detective so I carried a small diary with me throughout the play where I was supposed to be scribbling all my notes and findings; whereas in reality it was in this diary that I wrote all my dialogues and I would refer it from time to time to prompt myself.

For the skit in this incident, I was playing a TV anchor and it would have looked pretty odd to carry anything in my hand. SO … I suggested a twist in the story right at the beginning so as to accommodate a writing pad with dialogues in my hand and that too after informing the audience that I was carrying my dialogues with me J

The twist was like this … I was to be "pushed" on stage and then the spot light would shine on me while I blabbered about being rudely woken up from sleep and being given the script at the last minute to anchor the TV show since the designated anchor was absconding. This served multiple purposes … introduced me on stage in a most dramatic way, introduced me a TV anchor and introduced the setting as that of a TV studio and a TV show … which otherwise would have required a boring narrative J AND it solved my biggest problem. I could now carry my script with me an even look into it AND make mistakes … and all would be seen as a performance and not a weakness …. VOILA !!

BUT ... Life has endless twists and it never fails to surprise !!

We were doing our final rehearsals for the skit on day of the program and then we left from our college and went to the venue. Just 15 minutes before going on stage, in the green room while I was getting my make-up done; I wanted to look up on a particular dialogue and to my horrors I realized that the script was missing.

Dramatically I could have thought that it was a conspiracy by the other class to bring me down since they might have known that a missing script would cripple my performance BUT real life is not that dramatic you know. I had simply forgotten my script in college at practice site. Wooops !

This sent shivers down everybody on the team since all of them knew what the loss of my script meant … and since I was the central character of the play (the TV anchor role was the like the 'sootradhar' and narrator who introduced the different components and performances of the TV show. I was the one who would hold the entire play together and conclude the play …. ).

In this moment of panic, I reassured the team and started scribbling any and everything that I could remember. I did manage to jot down most of the bullet points for almost 75-80% of the play but did not have time to write down the bullet points of the climax since it was time to go on stage (I was the opening batsmen after all).

I got ready, picked up the 'so called' script pages and stodd in position for being pushed on stage. The push came and I went on stage half falling and started off …

I guess my appearance on stage (being pushed) and me screaming and shouting at the people who pushed me on stage helped a lot in captivating the audience. You don't see such dramatic entry often on stage followed by the actor talking to people on stage rather than addressing the audience.

All went well till the documented script … and then I had to improvise.

Also, we had not been able to figure out a dramatic climax to our play so we had chalked up a rather mild close which had satisfied none of our team members but then we had no alternatives.

The missing script gave me a chance to improvise. Between the scenes, I worked with our 'director' and suggested that at the point where 'my bullet point script' ends, I will start shouting about a missing script and someone from backstage will shout that the 'channel' has shut down and the owners have run away and so has the producer of the show. I will then say a few dialogues about my payment not being made and then we can bring the curtains down. The director agreed that this would be 'dramatic' enough for want of a better ending !

What actually happened was totally different.

The play continued well. All the performances were good and there was a lot of clapping an cheering going on.

I came to the point where the script ran out and starting saying my dialogues and …. Stumbled !

Not physically but metaphorically and verbally.

I became silent b'cos I did not know what to say next (I was speaking faster than I could think the next dialogue) and I froze in front of a crowd of 100+

And then it happened … a guy from the audience said "Abe Bhool gaya kya" ('Have you forgotten?')

This is where my sharp mind kicked in violently and I said "Kya karoo yaar, TV Anchor hoon. Script ke bina kuch bolta hi nahin hoon" (What can I do buddy. I am a TV anchor and don't say anything without a script). There was a momentary silence followed by a huge round of clapping and cheering. I could feel the entire atmosphere reverberating with the sound of claps and cheers.

As the sound subsided, I continued with some other dialogues and brought the delivery of my dialogues to a close. In a typical presenter / narrator fashion, I bowed and the curtains were about to close in when a guy from other class (competing play) gave a shout from the back "Chal jaa jaa .. ab ghar jaa. Flop Show"!!

AND I flipped. I signaled the curtains closing to be stopped and they started going back. I had already begun to walk towards the wing, so I stopped and looking in the general direction of the source of that comment, I started to speak again and came back to centre stage. I did hear someone from backstage say 'Ab yeh kya kar raha hain' …

I spoke for the next 3 minutes.

Loudly, passionately, directly, straight from the heart, no dialogues, just plain words coming out

I spoke looking at the section of the audience from where the comment had come. I spoke about how we should be encouraging each other and supporting each other rather than booing people out and pulling them down to ourselves go up. I talked about sportsman spirit and how winning was about doing better than others rather than wishing/ensuring that other's performance was somehow worse than your own. I talked about winning attitude and competing with the world rather than fighting with each other. I talked about how we should help each other excel rather than worry about our ranks and small gains.

It was totally unexpected and unplanned. I myself don't really remember all that was said and unfortunately we did not have any recording of the play (there were no digicam's around at that time so no chance of having anyone shoot a video of that).

But it came straight from the heart and everyone listened with absolutely pin drop silence (which I could 'hear' whenever I paused between dialogues giving the audience a few seconds to absorb what I was saying).

I did make a dramatic close to this 3-4 minutes dialogue marathon by raising my hands to the heavens and asking the audience a question and repeating it 3-4 times. Some thing on the lines of "Kab tak aisa hi chalta rahega? aakhair kab tak? Aakhir kab tak?"

And then it happened … a few claps started and then the hall again reverberated with the clapping and cheering from the crowd. And then a few guys got up and cheered for our class and then some more followed and then some more … in a matter of a minute, the entire audience was standing (barring the first few row of professors and of course a section of the audience belonging to the competing class.

I can never forget that day and time and that moment standing there and absorbing all the positive energy out there. I felt elated at having accomplished something that was pretty unimaginable for me.

As I came down from the stage and went to the seats reserved for the team at the back of the hall .. I walked the entire way with students coming from seats and shaking hands with me, patting my back and congratulating me for the 'performance'. Some of our seniors even did impromptu bow and congratulated me for 'hitting back' at the comment in a fantastic manner.

I must have shook hands with over a 100 people and must have been patted on my shoulder a countless times. People would recognize me in college for a long time to come.

This singular incident is the most memorable of my engineering life. That evening the positive energy and confidence inside me was boosted a thousand times and it has helped me ever since. I remember that event not because of my sharp mind or fiery tongue that brought me name and fame in college.  

When I think about the event, I am filled all over again with a similar super positivity and supreme confidence that I experience that day. Imagine being appreciated by a huge crowd and personally ebing congratulated by 100. That  was a BIG Boost I got and I can fortunately relive it in my memories.

Whenever I feel down and out, I think of that event and I am back in the game again. The memory of that night wipes out all traces of hopelessness or down-n-out feelings which come with troubled times of speed-breakers in life.

So that's about that one incident of life where my sharp mind and fiery tongue got me out of a sticky situation!! I wrote this blog post inspired by the KFC fiery grilled contest on Indiblogger.in … Thanks to them, I have managed to document and record one of the most exhilarating events of my life. Now I can go back to that moment more often by simply visiting my own blog and reading about it. Thanks again.