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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Travel Trails and Interesting Interactions and Incidents

When it comes to interesting people I have met in my travels, the list is long. The experiences are varied. Good as well as bad. In the past 7 years, I have travelled to Switzerland, Malaysia, Thailand, UAE and of course I have travelled a lot within India too.  
Travelling across the globe raises some linguistic problems too and they make the encounter interesting.
Let me take this incident from my first Switzerland travel in October 2005. I had gone there for just a week and I really wanted to see the sunrise over the Alps over the Geneva lake. So I woke up early in the morning and went to the lake. I clicked a few pictures but soon realized that I was clicking pictures of the beautiful sight in front of me and the most important thing was missing from the pics … ME !!!
Since I was behind the camera, I couldn't be in front. I was neither carrying a tripod nor had I any idea of the timer settings. I had borrowed neighbour's camera for the trip. So here I was clicking one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen and I could not click with myself in it. (Photoshop possibility came to my mind but PS is BS … it's not real)
I saw another guy doing what I was doing. Clicking pics of the mountains and the sun rise.
He was looking around and he spotted me. He was Chinese and we tried to talk but we could not understand anything. Then it struck me. He might be facing the same problem as me. I tried to convey the thought to him but we did not understand each other.
Then I extended my hand to his camera and touched it. he probably understood and gave it to me . I took it and clicked his pic. Just like that. No setting the scene or checking the background. Just clicked.
Suddenly his face lit up with a wide smile. He took my hand and made me stand in a particular place and took the camera from me and started taking a pic. He took the pic and then showed the pic to me. I did not quite understand and just said NICE. He smiled and gave me the camera and then went to the railing around the lake and stood there as if posing for the camera. AND it hit me. He has composed a picture and showed me the pic to tell me he wanted me to take his pic exactly like that composition. I took his pic. He came rushing and saw the results. He smiled but not so widely. he did not seem satisfied. He took another picture and going backward forward, showed me the difference. I realized that I had missed the mountain peak. He them positioned himself again for the pic and I took some time composing the pic properly. This time he was satisfied. He smile was as wide as his face and with the morning sun rays hitting his face; he looks extra ordinary.
He then motioned me to go to the railing and he clicked my pic with his camera. The pic was good but I realized that it was in his camera so I handed hm my camera. He understood and clicked m pic with m camera.
Well … for the next one hour we were walking along the geneva lake taking pics of each other. He was holding my camera and I was holding his.
We practically never exchanged an understandable word. We did not really have a conversation in words but we exchanged a lot that morning. I will never my Chinese (or may be Japanese or even korean) friend.

Yet another very interesting person I had met was again a long time ago (this incident was around 2003-2004). I met him in a long distance Indian Railway train. He was a complete stranger and he began talking to me on his own. In those days, I had about 3-4 different rings on my hand. No no … it was not the impact of Amir Khan’s ‘Ghulam’ … it was all because I was asked to wear them by mom-dad; who were advised on this by a Jyotish based on my stars and horoscope.

This stranger saw my rings and was staring at me for quite some time; as I sat opposite to him in the train compartment; both of us sitting near the window. After quite some deliberation, he said to me “Beta, the rings you are wearing are not right”

I was surprised at him addressing me directly about my rings. He saw the questions on my face and clarified. He told me that he had knowledge of Jyotish-vidya (astrology). I took it all as part of the fun and extended my palm towards him. He said that he could read me and my future based on my face, the lines on my forehead; and didn’t need to read my hand.

He began telling me about my past … some generic things at first (which I assumed as guesswork) and then some specific things (which began to surprise me). All of the things he was saying were more or less correct. I confirmed them and even my friends were surprised and interested now.

At this point, one of my friends asked about my future. Our Astrologer stranger gave me a hard piercing look while I observed his poker face for some signs of emotions. And then he said it. Those words are something that I have never forgotten.

He said something to the effect that I would be very successful in life and rise in name and fame to great heights. I would have everything in life. I would have a lot of wealth. And then … at the age of 48 (I am not sure of the exact number now but it was near the half century mark); I will lose everything !!!

The compartment became silent; except for the sound of the rushing train. For the first time now, I spoke. I said I would keep part of the wealth in safe keeping with friends, relatives, banks, investments. Our astrologer friend only shook his head and said once more “You will lose everything at that time … and you will have to start from scratch all over again”.

Well … I did not say anything else and looked out of the window for I was visibly shaken. None of my friends or neighbors dared to ask the stranger astrologer about their own lives and future. I could not have any conversation with that man during the entire journey.

I personally do not invest too much belief in astrology but that incident has left an indelible mark on me. I neither live in fear of what that man said nor do I seem to be able to forget it.


This blog post was inspired by the contest on www.indiblogger.in and sponsored aptly by www.expedia.co.in

Surprise: Samsung and Blackberry Compatibility

 

 

One is often miffed at the lack of compatibility between products and accessories of different brands. So many times you would have seen people going around asking for a mobile charger of a particular brand for their own charger was elsewhere and their mobile had decided to run out of battery.

 

If you have been in those shoes (doing the running around); I am sure you would have thought why can't all these mobile manufacturers come to terms with a standard and use the same design ports for charging. That way there would be one universal charger and you won't have to worry about finding a matching pair when in emergency needs.

 

The same goes for laptops, digital cameras, tablets and various other electronic gadgets that are very much part of our daily lives AND which have a habit of running out of juice just about when we need it the most.

 

I wrote in the earlier post about my lost baggage and the blackberry tablet charger that was in the lost bag and how that would affect my reading (my tablet is my eBook reader) ….

 

WELL … Surprise

 

I discovered (with due help from my neighbor's kid) that Samsung and BB have some sort of compatibility as far their chargers are concerned. I tried my Samsung mobile phones charger on the BB Playbook and voila, the tablet began charging to glory.

 

So my problem of charging my tablet is solved and I can read on unhindered. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blackberry Tablet OS version 2.0

 

I hear about the upgrade to the BB tablet OS and read up a bit about it. The preliminary articles seemed good and the expectation was high. So I actually upgraded the OS on the appointed day when it was available.

BB OS was a disappointed till date (to me at least). The platform did not support the millions of Android apps and there was very limited number of apps available for BB OS and most of them were paid. Not that the price was high but simply going thro' the payment cycle is a pain. And why pay for something which is otherwise available for free on another platform.

The new OS is expected to be able to support the android apps J

I downloaded the OS on the day of its release (21st Feb) and notices some tweaking in its interface. Seems OK

SAD Addendum: One of my bags was misplaced during my Dubai-Mumbai trip and this one had my BB tablet charger L So if that bag is not found, then I gotta find a BB Playbook charger in the market. That affects my eBook reading till such time as I find my bag or the charger L AND I can't explore the BB OS 2.0 also till then …

Friday, February 24, 2012

Christmas Carol in February

Charles Dickens' 200th Anniversary Google doodle on Feb 7th inspired me to read one of his works.

Last I read a Charles Dickens work was during my school days over 2 decades ago.
 
So I have decided to read 'A Christmas Carol' and even watch its animated movie too.
 
This particular animated movie has been on my to-do since a very long time ... I had unfortunately missed the movie in the theatres !!
 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reading Series Count ‘Correction’ (AGAIN)

 

Last month I made a post to reset my regular reading counters on discovering more of Three Investigators, finishing Feluda series and adding the Famous Five to my reading list.

Well … I am resetting it again.

I have now with me a collection of 21 stories titled "The Best of Satyajit Ray" which I am adding to the regular monthly reads.

 

The last entry I made was 

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st Jan 2012)

Three Investigators     28 out of 63

Sherlock Holmes         46 out of 60

Famous Five                02 out of 21

Total                           76 out of 144

 

Now, I am re-setting the counters to ….

 

Series Completion Score:

Three Investigators     28 out of 63

Sherlock Holmes         46 out of 60

Famous Five                02 out of 21

Best of Satyajit Ray     00 out of 21

Total                           76 out of 165

 

So now I have about about 90 stories across the 4 series to read till the end of the year …

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kingfisher once again …

 

Flight Delays, Bad Food, bad in-flight entertainment system … the experience only gets worse.

Once again I had to travel Kingfisher. I was already expecting the not-so-good food and the same movies playing on the in-flight entertainment system. What I had not expected was the flight delay. I had received some emails from Kingfisher regarding their punctuality records etc recently and a delay was the last thing on my mind.

Dubai – Mumbai is a less than 3 hour flight and my flight was delayed by 3 hours !!

The 8.30 flight for which one needs to leave home at least by 6 … finally took off at 11.30 and that too with the screen at the boarding gate showing 23.30 'Estimated' and not 'scheduled'

The crowd at the boarding gate was getting furious by the minute since there was no once from Kingfisher at the gate to answer the queries of the passengers. The airlines did not make any provision for food/water or basic courtesy of sending someone to inform the passengers personally. People with kids / old people all waiting in suspense staring at the 'estimated 23.30' signage on the screen. It is really pathetic.

I personally feel it is the responsibility of the airline to make arrangements for food and refreshments if their flight is getting delayed and you are crossing over lunch or dinner time. Even otherwise, basic snacks and refreshments are much needed. The passengers would feel taken care of rather than taken-for-granted.

The behavior of the airline staff towards the angry / upset passengers was not good either. When someone mentioned that this would be his first and last Kingfisher flight; she said to other passengers that those who shout are anyway going to buy the cheapest flight ticket next time they fly and end up coming back to Kingfisher and shout similar things again ... and continue this every time they fly.

 
Well … one more bad experience gets added to my Kingfisher woes.

An as usual, the non-existent choice of in-flight entertainment enabled me to read J I started reading my first Patricia Cornwell novel and read quite a lot since besides the flight time, I had the additional time available due to the delay in flight take off.

The 45 minute wait in the immigration queue at Dubai Airport helped further J

 

Addendum: Today I read some news articles about several KF flights being cancelled in the past two days. This gives me a fresh perspective. Rather than being upset about the delay, I am thankful that it was a delay and not a cancellation!! Paradigm Shift !!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mahabaleshwar Trip

It was an absolutely awesome weekend in Mahabaleshwar !!
An amazing wonderful fun filled rocking laughter-filled memorable unforgettable weekend in Mahabaleshwar with a bus load of cousins !!!!
This is what I put as my FB message after coming back from my weekend trip to Mahabaleshwar with my cousins. We were 24 of us in a mini bus … 6 couples and the rest bachelor cousins, most of them teenagers, one being a kid and one being an infant J
This motley group had loads and loads of fun together. Our previous 3 trips had been to Lonavla and this time we wanted something different. Mahabaleshwar was the next best thing we could think of after Lonavla considering various factors like number of days, budget, new-ness factor etc.
I am putting up just few pics from the collection of atleast a 1000 pics clicked by various digi cams





Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Food Appreciation

 

Through our normal daily routine busy lives; we hardly appreciate food. No, I am talking about appreciating the value of food. We very well do it. In fact the growling in our stomach almost forces us to d o it.

I am talking about the 'appreciation' of the flavors, the fragrances, the texture, the taste, the effect of the food on your senses … qualitative appreciation of stuff we consume (solids as well as liquids)

We rush through our lunches as a mere survival activity and a mere formality. We do it coz we have to do it and hardly b'coz we want to do it or we love to do it. We leisurely go through our dinners, slowly and deliberately … not really enjoying the food but eating morsels between the dialogues and ad breaks of the stupid daily soaps (TV variety) that we are often subjected to since the majority vote (read woman vote) of the house are in their favor. We eat absent mindedly staring at the idiot box rather than concentrating or enjoying the food except for when it comes to dessert; where here is a sudden increase in interest towards mundane things like food.

Well … if you are interested in food appreciation; you should try someday going without it.

Yes, it really works. Once a year, during the Jain Festival of Paryushan, I attempt to fast for a day. Fasting here means NOT eating ANYTHING for a period of about 30-31 hours taking only boiled water during a 12 hour window from sunrise to sunset. Its not unlike some other kinds of fasting where you can eat some foods (fruits, dry fruits, sabu dana etc) while not eating some (grains, chapatti, vegetables). The Jain Fast is COMPLETE. No eating anything.

During such a fast (or let's say food depravation), you suddenly develop the food appreciation. You begin to gets wafts of fragrances and flavors from foods that are not even in your line of sight. You can smell what's cooking in the kitchen even if you are in some other corner of the house; something that you would not have noticed all your lives. Food 'looks' delicious. Yes, you suddenly begin to appreciate the 'looks' of the food. You notice the texture of food (something that you did not even know existed). You notice the chapatti and its spots and its comparison to the moon or Africa depending on the skills of the one who prepared it. Food takes on a new life of its own. You suddenly discover a whole new world of food. They seem to develop a magnetism of their own. It seems ironic that the day you are not supposed to consume them, they seem to be extremely tasty and inviting.

You fantasize (yes, I am using the word fantasize and not dream). You fantasize food being consumed by you in slow motion (Hollywood and especially Matrix styled slow motion). You feel the flavor, the texture, the taste and everything that your 5 (or 6) senses can make you feel.

The next thing that happens that suddenly you become acutely aware of every road side vendor, shop, food outlet along your daily paths which you might have not even seen in your years of traversing that path. The fruits and vegetables vendors, the road side stalls of vada pav / bhel / sev puri / dosa …. the small and big restaurants tucked in unseen corners … to the extent you even start noticing 'people' who are carrying food stuff. We notice anything and everything remotely connected to edible stuff. You can smell anything and everything edible.

The advertisements showing any glimpse or hint of food and edible items seems to be a torture designed to discourage you from your fast. Almost seems like a divine cosmic conspiracy against you. 

Such are the effects of food depravation … they suddenly alleviate your appreciation for them.

Why am I writing this now ? (Paryushan is almost 6 months away and I am not even fasting) ….

Well, the GM diet gave me a similar kind of experience. The GM diet is not a fasting diet and it even goes ahead and prescribes stuffing ourselves with designated food. The only restriction is the type of food. Example: First day ONLY FRUITS and Second day ONLY VEGETABLES and Fourth day of Milk and Bananas only. You can't even imagine how tasty, beautiful and delicious the humble 'Roti' seems when you are not supposed to eat it. 

Disclaimer:

The thoughts above are dedicated to those who DO NOT have appreciation for food. I do not fall into that category, of course. I belong to a family where most members have high food appreciation. To the extent that the women of the family (at least those who have become part of the family by virtue of marriage and don't really carry the same foodie genes we do) often crib about the men (and even kids … genes acting their part) and their fussy temperament about Food.

We appreciate food and we appreciate well cooked food and those who cook them. Quite a few male members are excellent cooks themselves much to the dismay of the ladies at times and relief at other times of need. And much to the chagrin of the ladies, we are quick to point out the slightest deviation from the should-be-taste, often pointing out the deviation and suggesting course corrections. The ladies are wary of our comments like "The dish is good. But a little bit of XYZ and ABC might have made it better" … the XYZ and ABC could be anything from ingredients like salt, lemon, ginger to process suggestions like heating on low flame, churning while cooking, under-cooking and so on.

Of course, I haven't yet mastered the levels of 'suggestions' nor do I have any culinary skills; I am still at the starting point of food appreciation evolution … I am at the pointing-out-imperfect stage and might stay there forever, much to the slight disappointed of my dad and much to the liking of my wife.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Terrific Traffic

The first thought that came to my mind when I saw this pic was …






If I was in a chauffeur driven car or a Public transport vehicle (bus or cab) in such a traffic ….




WOW … … … I could finish off reading a whole novel in there  :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

Being a debut album by the author, my expectations were not high. The story developed slowly and there is a simple plot. What I liked about the book was the simple language, interesting choice of adjectives and the nice style of writing. I also liked the pretty interesting chapter names. The free flow manner of story-telling was a welcome change.


Considering that I read this one immediately after Matthew Reilly's novel; a light read after a fast action paced one; it was indeed a welcome change.

The different shades and peculiarities of the character of the protagonist is revealed over the entire course of the story and its easy to see that the protagonist is a very normal believable and next-door kind of character. You might even identify yourself with her or someone you know. The thoughts, aspirations, worries … all are something that you might have had / thought about. The entire story is in fact a sort of character development for the protagonist against a backdrop of a faint plot

The story doesn't really have twists and turns … rather it goes on a pretty straightforward path. You know where the story is heading and there aren't any surprises. You just sit back and enjoy the simple yet enjoyable read.

The reading is like listening the experience of the protagonist (since the book is actually written in first person). It's like a normal narration she is giving you with plenty of digressions. There are times when you actually feel that the story has not really moved forward. Yes … you have come to know the lady a little better thro her narration but the story is still there … crawling at a snail's pace.

In fact, the protagonist does not even don her detective hat till almost half the novel and you are suddenly wondering about the authenticity of the novel's title. She then turns detective (after half the novel) but it's not a whole hearted attempt. She seems least interested in doing the whole detective thingy and actually takes help of a professional detective (who is incidentally her friend).

There is another character who appears in her vicinity but we (the reader) are not given any clue to his importance. You feel he is important since he has been introduced but then half way through the novel you begin to see him as a red herring.

After crossing half way through the story, the lack of movement of the story / plot and the digressions somewhat begin to irritate you if you are still expecting the story to move. If you have resigned to the fact that the novel is not about a plot or a story but about knowing the central character better … you can still read on. I fear, quite a few of the readers of this novel might just abandon it around the half way mark.

Well… all's well that ends well. But the book ends with a disappointment. The story does not really live up the back cover preview. The protagonist does not really play detective and you feel cheated by the title of the novel.

If you are looking for a plot and a story with some exciting pace … This is not for you.

If you are OK with reading about a character and get to know her better … If you are OK with a leisure no-brainer light read more for the writing style than the story itself … If you are OK with a reading that will not exactly excite you nor pump up your hormones/adrenaline … If you are OK with a read that will bring an occasional smile on your face (make that every other page) … THIS is a decent read.

I personally enjoyed reading Kiran's interesting writing style and it was a good break from my regular reads. Of course, the lack of a moving story/plot and a disappointing climax did cause some irritation.

BUT … I would be wary of picking up another novel by her (considering I never write off a writer from my reading list based on one novel)



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



ADDENDUM: I had mentioned above that I liked the chapter names ... and today i realised that the chapter name style was inspired by the famous story "Around the World in 80 Days" .... so even those were not really original :(



Thursday, February 09, 2012

Matthew Reilly’s latest Scarecrow Novel

 

Finally … I got my hands on the latest Matthew Reilly novel. Aptly titled 'Scarecrow and The Army of Thieves'; this is yet another Scarecrow / Schofield adventure. It turned out to be as expected … full of high octane over-the-top action with a whole lot of twists and turns in the plot. The setting is similar to Ice Station; a lone island in the Arctic region which becomes the centre of all the action (read destruction)

Matthew Reilly packs the punch in every page of the novel with not a single page being turned without action. The entire novel (barring the first few and last few pages) is packed around a day of full-fledged world-saving action. Scarecrow and Mother have company of 2 other significant 'fighters' with better equipment; a couple of civilians who are protected by Scarecrow and who have a role to play in the entire adventure AND a surprisingly good companion in the form of a Robot who considers Scarecrow as his Buddy (of course, after being programmed to do so). Each of the members of the team plays an important role in the mission and each one goes through a near-death experience (including the Robot; can you believe it); some of them even dying

There is a very interesting plot and suspense under all the power packed action … a plot which shocks even Scarecrow. The villain is an extremely smart guy who can literally read Scarecrows mind (or for that matter anyone's mind). He is a MASTER MIND Visionary who predicts the course of political future of the world almost 30 years before the events actually take place and has the ability / capability to prepare counter-measures for the 'future events' . He turns out to be a worthy opponent to Scarecrow and I would not be surprised to see him again in some future Scarecrow Novel.

Although I wouldn't put this one as MR's best; it is definitely a fantastic read for those who would love to 'read and visualize' a Hollywood action flick.

Now that I have read the latest from MR; the wait for the next one begins and I really really hope that the next one is a Jack West Junior novel (after reading the Seven Ancient Wonders, Six Sacred Stones and Five Greatest Warriors … the wait for 'Four something something' has already been there for quite some time … AND I somehow like Jack West Junior more than Scarecrow; in spite of the fact that Five wasn't as good as Seven and Six ... Five seemed like a rush-job )

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

GM Diet … again !

Once again I am embarking on the GM Diet journey of 7 days

First time in 2009, then second time last year in 2011 … I made an attempt last month but could not complete it.

My weight has jumped up by almost 8-10 kg in the last 4 months so some drastic weight control measures needed to be put into practice J hence the GM diet to bring a few kg down quickly and then probably some regulation on type of food intake (heavy cutting down on McD Burgers and Pizzas and sweets and ice creams and so on …)

Well … Its Day 2 and things are fine. I am taking my usual exception of Tea (with milk and sugar). Hopefully this time around I am able to complete the diet … will know in a few days J

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

DNA and HT ... Is their 'Readership' really high?

 

Talking of newspapers … in the past few months, I have seen a lot of ads by both, Hindustan Times and DNA, claiming their phenomenal growth in Mumbai competing with Times of India and others.

When I first saw these ads, I just smiled. But then over the last few months, they kind of got on my nerves. Do the guys at HT and DNA really think and believe in those ads?

Do they really believe that they have such a huge and phenomenal 'readership'?

Personally, I have no doubt about the number of newspapers they sell or deliver to households BUT I have a serious doubt on that being their 'readership' numbers?

The thing is; both DNA and HT have a subscription based distribution as compared to the monthly billing for other newspapers. Also, the subscription pricing is pretty attractive … leading to a pricing of less than 50 paise per day for newspaper. Now compare that to Rs. 2 to 4 or even 5 per day cost for some other leading newspapers in the city. So PRICE is definitely a factor BUT that in itself is not the reason which has contributed to the quick penetration of DNA and HT into the Mumbai market.

The real reason lies in the price of Raddi in Mumbai. Yeah !! The Raddi (old newspapers and other paper) which every household in Mumbai 'sells' to the ubiquitous Raddiwala - Raddi is priced anywhere between 8 or 9 Rs per kg …

Pick up just 10 days worth of DNA or HT and weigh them. That will tell you how much you would get for it from the Raddiwala and now consider the fact that it cost you only Rs. 5 (50 paise per day). Now you do the math for the whole year … 365 days ... and you may consider the special editions when the newspaper is heavier with special supplements etc.

THIS math was done by the housewives in houses across the city quite some time ago and hence the HUGE subscription numbers of DNA and HT. (Thing to note: When the housewives had calculated the cost versus raddi income; the raddi prices were around 6-7 only; and even then it was a real steal !!)

These prepaid newspapers are promptly delivered to countless homes where are placed in waiting for the raddiwala who would come at the end of the week / fortnight. Most of these are probably not even opened (and mind it … the raddiwala would be able to corroborate the mint condition of the newspapers they buy from households).

I would have believed the growing numbers if there would have been corresponding shrinking of the numbers for existing English dailies. But the shrink is marginal or very less compared to the increase AND I am sure people are not really reading 2 or 3 English dailies every day. No one has that kind of time. I think the decrease in the numbers for existing dailies is probably the real indicator of 'readership' of HT and DNA and not their sales numbers.

Monday, February 06, 2012

January Reading …

 

I began the year reading a Devdutt Pattanaik book and then continued with the usual Sherlock and 3I … and then continued picking up new authors and started reading the Famous Five series.

The month saw me begin the year in Dubai, then travel to Mumbai and stay there for a week followed by a week-long visit to Gujarat-Rajasthan (temple visits) and finally coming to Dubai for a week and then back to Mumbai …. PHEW !! That being my first month of the year … does it anyway indicate how the rest of my year is going to be? I am scared already!

Lot of travel would have meant a lot of reading but the first read was slow and I was hardly able to read anything during my 5 day trip to Rajasthan simply because the car would shake like crazy on the Rajasthan roads (AND my wife won't allow me to read while in her company) and the train journeys were mostly during the night … and the night was COLD !

My Pune trips give me little time for reading as I am spending the morning journey sleeping and evening journey in darkness of the vehicle (I could read on the Tablet but the roads again get shaky as we approach the city)

Travelled Mumbai-Dubai using Kingfisher again this month and they did not have anything new to offer in their in-flight entertainment system so I used that time for reading J

Reading Score for the month – 10 … which is good considering I read a couple of full length books/novels, one of which was a full 600 page action thriller.

 

1. Myth = Mithya by Devdutt Pattanaik  

I started reading the book on 1st Jan itself and once I had read the first 3-4 pages; I was hooked.

As I have written earlier while reviewing '7 Secrets of Shiva' … Devdutt Pattanaik (DP) explains the symbolism of Hindu mythology and Hindu Gods. M=M is a book with a wider range of subject (unlike 7 secrets of Shiva which was focused on Shiva) and looks at various aspects of our mythology.

The book, in the introduction itself, explains the significance of myth as well as mythology AND why they are needed. And more importantly, what do these terms actually mean. DP covers a lot of ground in this book; telling us a little bit about everything from Hindu Mythology.

It was an interesting but slow read. The book does not really have a flow. You can read it in bits and pieces and open up any page from the book and start reading.

The book though interesting, is not an 'unputdownable'; hence a slow one. It is also slow, because you read and absorb and think and then resume reading again.

 

2. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Headless Horse by William Arden

I am sure they could have had a better 'more relevant' name for the story. Yes, there is indeed a headless horse but it is not really the centre of the story. Yes, we come across it in the beginning and it makes it appearance in the climax but nothing more than that. But then, it is an interesting title and if you feel your book will sell by the book title ... why not!!

The story has the 3 boys getting emotionally involved with a family trying to save their heritage and land. They find that the family history talks about something that could be valuable today but no one has heard the whereabouts of that object; a sword, for over 100 years and the last known records of its sighting are almost 140 year old. The trio manages to unravel the mystery behind the sequence and accuracy of the events from that era and Jupiter even deduces the exact location of the lost relic.

 

3. Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The fourth and the last of the Sherlock Holmes long stories / short novels (novella).

An interesting start this novel has with Sherlock looking at a typical cryptic message whose cipher is not available. He knows that the cipher is actually the name of the book which was used to construct the message. He uses his usual deductive logic to point out the exact book (albeit after a small mistake) from the multitudes of books and decodes the message only to find that it is but a danger warning.

This story introduces us (in a lot of detail) to Sherlock's arch enemy Dr. Moriarty whom Sherlock considers as the most dangerous and shrewd/cunning criminal.

Like the first Sherlock Holmes novel, this story is in 2 parts, the first involving the mystery and Sherlock's deductions. The second part gives the historical context of the case. The story is interesting but when you are reading a detective novel, such historical monologue which does not bear upon the case in hand can be boring.

The story once again shows how Sherlock thinks different and can solve a case on the most curious of clues which others might consider insignificant. In this case, Sherlock is intrigued by a missing dumbbell from the murder scene and remarks that the case is literally hanging on to the missing dumb bell.

 

4. The Famous Five: Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

This is the first Famous Five book I am reading. I missed reading them in my school days so making up for a lost chance; 20 years later. 

The story being the first one of the series introduces and brings the star cast together. The five characters of the 'Famous Five' come together during the course of this story. And those who have not read TFF; well, let me tell you that the Famous Five is actually composed of 2 boys, 2 girls and …. A DOG !!!

The book is often childish … the famous five themselves being kids (not even teenagers). The language is simple and the stories try to touch upon basic virtues and mannerisms which would be a good message to send to the audience who would be kids … unlike readers like me who have left their childhood and teenage far behind :)

A treasure is always a very interesting thing and this particular story had a treasure along with a Ship Wreck and an island where the adventure takes place. All these put together would be very exciting for the kids to read.

Wish I had read this series in my school days … but it is never too late since the kiddo inside me is forever 'alive and kicking'

 

5. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Magic Circle by M V Carrey

An old time movie actress is suddenly interested in getting her memoirs published and also selling her movie rights which are of considerable value. Both done; the movie tapes and the manuscript both get stolen.

Something is fishy bcos the lady does not meet or interact with anyone. She deals with the outer world only and only thorough her one-time Driver, now Secretary. The trio begins to investigate only to discover that she is a Witch (or at least, most people believe so) and she also had a coven (a group of 13 members who form a group with a witch).

But then, all is seldom what it seems to be J

 

6. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Back to the Sherlock Holmes Short Stories (By the way; I also saw the Sherlock Holmes movie this month and discovered that a new author has recently published a Sherlock Holmes Novel)

This story has a surprise in the form of Mycroft, Sherlock's brother, who isn't really known to break his routine. He visits Sherlock (which is very much out of routine) and gives him a case of international and political significance.

Sherlock, once again, forms a theory which is almost unthinkable by others and goes ahead and proves the same. After reading half the story, I had some recollections of the plot from my childhood reading.

 

7. Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

This is my first Kuzneski and I was hooked after the first few pages. The story had the texture of Dan Brown (Secrecy, Christianity, Belief / Faith) and the pace and style of Ludlum (fast paced action thriller with touches of light humor). Imagine reading something light like The Famous Five and then moving onto something hard n heavy like Kuzneski.

I liked the Sign of Cross and will be attempting to read all of Kuzneski's work this year … its now about getting my hands on them. (I also need to get my hands on the latest Matthew Reilly novel too)

The story revolves around a BIG secret being discovered (all right … that's not exactly correct)

The story revolves around discovering the PROOF being a really BIG Secret which can shake the foundation of Christianity … while a series of planned executionary murders are taking place across the globe where the victims are being crucified in public places. Jonathon Payne and David Jones are the recurrent characters of the Chris Kuzneski novels who are engaged to search for a rogue international Arts thief who seems to be an archeologist but seems connected to CIA and then has connections to the villains men …. Aaah … it all gets too confusing and damn interesting !!

It was nice reading a 600 page action packed novel … the last time I read something of this magnitude was in 2010 when I read Matthew Reilly.

 

8. Sherlock Holmes: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A decent tale about a lady disappearing and Sherlock sending Watson to track her down. They almost find her and then when they search a house, they don't find her. Sherlock suffers a set-back. He knows something is wrong and he has missed something.

Well … all's well that end well. He eventually manages to rescue the lady 'literally' from her death bed !!

 

9. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Deadly Double by William Arden

The three Investigators plan for a 'normal' day of fun. They plan to visit an amusement park and Jupe gets kidnapped on the way. He escapes but the kidnappers don't relax. Meanwhile, the trio gets a case which is related to Jupe's kidnapping.

It's a curious case where Jupe gets kidnapped once again (although voluntarily) and Bob & Pete have to take lead in the absence of their de facto leader.  An interesting case where Royalty is involved and a country's political future is at stake.

 

10. The Famous Five: Five Go Adventuring Again by Enid Blyton

I picked up another Famous Five for this month. The five are brought together again in an adventure. The Famous Five stories are written in the innocent childish manner and that is something of a change for me. I was enjoying the simplicity and innocence.

The second story brings the kids back to Kirrin Cottage and the holidays are set to be boring b'cos they have a tutor for the holidays !  But then when the Famous Five come together, how can things be boring. The mystery & adventure revolves around Kirrin cottage and Kirrin Farm House which is nearby. They go about visiting the farm house only to discover some interesting passages and things … and then they discover a MAP J Well, whenever a map is involved, it can only mean secret passages/paths and / or treasures.

 

A month of variety … Read a book on Hindu mythology and a novel which was an action thriller with historical Christianity background … Read innocent adventure of kids & famous detective stuff ….

I read 2 new authors in this month … Enid Blyton & Chris Kuzneski both belonging to different writing styles … although both wrote adventure kind of stories; their target audience belonged to different age groups. One wrote for kids, the other for mature adults. I enjoyed reading both.

I am looking forward to new authors in February too and an exciting roller coaster adventure thriller too J (YES, I am reading the latest from Matthew Reilly in Feb)

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st Jan 2012)

Three Investigators     28 out of 63

Sherlock Holmes         46 out of 60

Famous Five                02 out of 21

Total                           76 out of 144

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Kingfisher Airlines Again!

I travelled Kingfisher again :(
I am travelling to Dubai on company sponsored tickets and so one of the cheaper & convenient ticket is issued. I had the alternative of Indian Airlines which has also given me bad experiences in the past so I chose Kingfisher instead.

The in-flight entertainment was the SAME. No, I don't mean to say they haven't improved it over the past month, what I am saying is that it was the SAME. The same movies were playing that were playing two months ago during my Nov-Dec !!!

Food was OK. Same as before. Needs improvement.

The only good part of the journey was one particular Air Hostess / Cabin Crew member who had a most stunning beautiful smile AND she was very helpful too. Made the journey much better !
 ----
During the return journey by Kingfisher ... I was surprised and then not so surprised to find the SAME movies / serial episodes playing on the in-flight entertainment system.
Well, THANKS to THAT, i completed my 600-page Chris Kuzneski novel. I started the novel on Kingfisher flight and completed it during the return journey six days later.